Cosmic Cabdrivers' Guide to the Universe: ( www.cosmicrat.com) presents

This Is Rat Now

my social and political commentary page.
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The Inaugural Address, 2013

Whatever happens today that we remember in the future becomes history. Sometimes the word historic, while accurate, is over-used. There are many small facts that may be interesting, but don't alter the course of human events significantly. However, the re-election of Barack Obama as President, and what he said to the nation today, may well qualify as History in the fullest meaning of the word.

The 2008 election was historically significant too, but the fact that America elected our first black President not just once, but twice, as Rachel Maddow pointed out, says something important about this country. Despite the continued expressions of racism, which is both an attitude of the ignorant and a tool of the ruthless, A majority of our citizens are sufficiently free of bigotry to see that skin color really does not matter, and have affirmed the principles President Obama stands for, that unequal treatment because of gender or sexual preference should also be a thing of the past.

The Inaugural speech itself rose far beyond pleasantries for the occasion. It well-expressed bold vision for the needs of the future:




PDF VERSION OF THE SPEECH

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S SECOND INAUGURAL SPEECH, JANUARY 21, 2013

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens, each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names.

What makes us exceptional, what makes us America is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.
That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Today we continue a never ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they've never been self-executing. That while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by his people here on earth.

The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few, or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people. Entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed. And for more than 200 years we have. Through blood drawn by lash, and blood drawn by sword, we noted that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half slave, and half free.
We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.
Together we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers. Together we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play. Together we resolve that a great nation must care for the vulnerable and protect its people from life's worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all societies ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.

For we have always understood that when times change, so must we, that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges, that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.

For the American people can no more meet the demands of today's world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we'll need to equip our children for the future. Or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores.

Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people. This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled (ph) our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending.
And economic recovery has begun.
America's possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive, diversity and openness, of endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention.
My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together.
For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.
We believe that America's prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work, when the wages of honest labor will liberate families from the brink of hardship.

We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

We understand that outworn (ph) programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work hard or learn more, reach higher.

But while the means will change, our purpose endures. A nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American, that is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.

But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.

For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss or a sudden illness or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative.
They strengthen us.
They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take the risks that make this country great.

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.

Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But American cannot resist this transition. We must lead it.

We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries. We must claim its promise. That's how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure, our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That's what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.
Our brave men and women in uniform tempered by the flames of battle are unmatched in skill and courage.
Our citizens seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace, and not just the war. Who turn sworn enemies into the surest of friends. And we must carry those lessons into this time as well. We will defend our people, and uphold our values through strength of arms, and the rule of law.

We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully. Not because we are naive about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.

America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad. For no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice.

Not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes; tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice. We the people declare today that the most evident of truth that all of us are created equal -- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebearers through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began, for our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.

Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.

Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.

Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.

Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.

That is our generation's task, to make these works, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.

Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness.

Progress does not compel us to settle century's long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time.

For now, decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.

We must act. We must act knowing that our work will be imperfect (ph). We must act knowing that today's victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction.

And we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream.

My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride. They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.

You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country's course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time, not only with the votes we cast, but the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideas.

Let us each of us now embrace with solemn duty, and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.

Thank you. God bless you. And may He forever bless these United States of America.



The Struggle Continues

The election is over, and the people won, mostly. That is only a start. There are many issues, big and medium-sized, all important, that we must deal with. As I have said, now is not the time to sit back and expect those we elected, including the President, to do it all. (I doubt such a time will ever come)

Multiply.com, where I have done much of my blogging, is essentially dead. Nothing new can be added. The RSS feed you see to the left, and the site itself, will remain until the end of December to view only. My blogs will be preserved in the ARCHIVES on this site.

Opera.com is currently the place for my new blogs:
Vietnam: The War JFK Might Have Stopped
I believe it is important to dissect how past wars were created and how they might have been prevented.

Palestine's UN Status
I wrote this the day Palestine got non-member observer state status by an overwhelming vote. Since then, Israel has disgraced itself by vengefully announcing new settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, making peace much less likely.
I have long believed that Israel should succeed as a homeland for Jews, and that it SHOULD be a positive example for all nations, acting in accordance with the humanitarian principles that most Jews have always held and exhibited throughout the world.
The reality has been, to say the least, very disappointing. I cannot support the militarism, belligerance, and expansionism, nor its serious violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people.
If the Israeli people do not soon reject its right-wing hawks and elect a government dedicated to peace and humanity, the world will increasingly reject Israel as a member of the community of nations. I hope the people will do the right thing.


The Way Forward: Practical Politics

We, the people, need to be fully engaged in all aspects of our government, both foreign and domestic. This is easier said than done. Traditionally, our votes are determined mostly by domestic issues, and only when foreign policy is going very, very wrong, as it did during the Vietnam war and the Iraq invasion, do we elevate foreign relations to a high priority.

The result has been a long list of invasions, intimidations, engineered coups, puppet dictators, economic aggressions, etc., often unreported and usually untaught in history classes, of which any person with a moral sense who is fully aware of them should be ashamed.

Over the past two centuries this kind of foreign policy has become habit, determined not by the will of the people but by those whose financial interests are served by the American style of imperialism. It has created an extremely complicated system of alliances, economic relationships, and a defense, industrial and espionage establishment that has an unknown degree of control over the policy itself.

The expansion of available information has relatively recently enabled us to form intelligent independent conclusions about foreign affairs. There is still the problem of how to change things. We cannot even be certain that our elected officials, including the President, have enough actual power to alter foreign policy in a significant way.

Some assume, based on Constitutional legalities, that a President can control it, as intended. That may be true, but it doesn't make the informed voters' job any easier. To elect a President and a Congress who are willing to rock the foreign policy boat, defying the military-industrial complex, we need to undo the effect of many decades of propaganda. That is the key to change, and there are no shortcuts around it.

The process of informing and educating the public, counteracting generations of misinformation and corporate-serving ideology, will be a monumental and long-term task, which will continue to be resisted by well-funded propaganda operations. It will be achieved not by out-spending the opposition, but by rigorously speaking the whole truth.

Some have suggested that we should not compromise along the way; that we should support only "ideal" candidates and parties, not those we consider right on some issues and wrong on others. Such an approach may be philosophically satisfying to some, but it is not the way politics works. Politics IS compromise, and change is always achieved incrementally by means of an endless series of compromises, each new bit of progress built on the last.

We hear the trite cynicism Lesser of two evils. There is no logic in rejecting both. Less evil is more good. Some say The system is broken, implying that action short of revolution is useless. No, the system is NOT broken. It is merely rusty from disuse by the apathetic, the hopeless cynics, and the deluded idealists who insist on perfect third parties with no chance of affecting anything.

I have spoken of foreign policy, but I do not mean we should ignore domestic policy. It is every bit as important, and it is there that we can learn that the public CAN effect change, given determination and persistence. People, organizations, and many imperfect politicians have struggled for and advanced the causes of racial, ethnic, religious and sexual-preference equality, for Social Security, Medicare, and Affordable Health Care; for labor and collective bargaining; for a cleaner environment. In these areas there is also resistence, and it has taken years of work. There is much more to do, but we have made progress.

We must hold onto the progress we have made, and then make more, both foreign and domestic.

--cosmicrat Sept. 11, 2012

Foreign Policy

Policies toward other nations, like domestic policies, should be formed and implemented according to the wishes of a majority of the American people by the President and Congress. It has never quite worked out that way.
Why not? We elect the people who are empowered to make policy decisions, but time after time we find, often after the fact, that actions, alliances, threats, and hostilities are being directed toward other countries in our name, and these actions are frequently contrary to the basic values of most thinking Americans. Some of them have been so horrible and outrageous that millions have marched and demonstrated in protest. Even then, despite growing and long-sustained outcries, the will of the people is ignored.

Naturally, most voters do not have firsthand knowledge of the events and policies of other nations. In the past, before the availability of fast global communication and travel, this was a valid reason for trusting the judgment of professional diplomats and experts in international politics. It has never been an excuse, though, for misrepresenting the facts to the public in order to justify unprincipled actions done in behalf of private interests.

Americans often tend to see foreign policy as something that does not directly affect them. As long as a candidate is 'strong on defense', they don't bother much to inspect the details of what that may mean. But just as we no longer have to rely on our officials for information worldwide, we can no longer justifiably believe we are unaffected by the results of foreign policy. The rest of the world is no longer remote, nor can we afford to be isolated from it.

We need to understand who and what makes our foreign policy, and what motivates them. We know the President and Congress are supposed to, but we might wonder if even they are in full control.

We need to look at some detailed history.
Oil and Foreign Policy
Chapter I - Establishing the American Presence in the Middle East
Chapter II - The 1947 Aramco Merger
Chapter III - Foreign Policy and Antitrust: The Cartel Case and the Iranian Consortium
The Origins of Imperial Israel:A Buffer Against Arab Nationalism
by Andrew Gavin Marshall
'The State Department, in particular... worried that support for Israel would threaten American interests in the region by antagonizing the Arab states and ruining America's good reputation following the War. Others, however, won out in the end, largely by arguing that such a state in the Middle East would be a significant support to American interests, acting as a powerful buffer against the spread of Arab nationalism and Pan-Arabism.'

The American Empire in Latin America: 'Democracy' is a Threat to 'National Security'
by Andrew Gavin Marshall
'...the true threat- far from the strategic sham of Cold War rhetoric (as Zbigniew Brzezinski referred to it)- was the actualized and very realistic challenge to American domination posed by nationalistic regimes which support the masses of the population of various Latin American countries. Worse still, the masses were demanding immediate improvement in [their] low living standards...'

The Council on Foreign Relations and the Grand Area of the American Empire
by Andrew Gavin Marshall
'The process of establishing an American Empire during and after World War II was not- as has been postulated (by those who even admit there is such a thing as an American Empire)- an accident of history...'

The excellent research in the above articles gives a clear picture of what foreign policy is and who influenced it. We can see that the opinions and needs of the corporate heads of oil companies, United Fruit, and other interests are considered, and that the will and principles of the American people are only to be manipulated with propaganda, not listened to by those they elect.

But the question remains: why, throughout most of our history, have Presidents and Congresses, whatever their parties, philosophies, and stated intentions, gone along with the idea that the US needs to dominate its neighbors and strategic resources throughout the world? We can see that many of the mistakes made in pursuit of of those ends are the cause of our current problems, some of which were foreseen by wiser but unheeded statesmen at the time of the decision. Why, for example, did Lyndon Johnson, whose domestic policies and achievements show him to be a sincere humanitarian, allow the escalation of Vietnam into a senseless bloody war? Why did Eisenhower, a former General who nevertheless hated war and said so, conduct brutal and murderous repression in Latin America?

There would seem to be something more involved than the ability of corporations and financial interests to reward those who favor their interests. That influences many Congressmen and lesser officials, but I suspect it is not the whole story.
I will continue to investigate.

The Stupidity of Hostility

Hostility, even economic sanctions short of violence, can provoke war, even when it is not the current intention. Roosevelt deliberately used it to motivate Japan to attack in 1941. He believed it necessary for the US to enter WW II to defeat Germany, and he used Japan to facilitate that.

We neither need nor want to go to war with Iran. We have no rational or legal basis for pressing the nuculear issue. Nevertheless both the administration and completely irresponsible statements by Republicans are making the world, and the American people, very nervous.

This article by Jasmin Ramsey of Aljazeera reflects the uncertainty.



OCCUPY WALL STREET!

OCCUPY PHOENIX!

OCCUPY WORLDWIDE!

I attended Occupy Phoenix. I took pictures. It's great to see so many people get involved, right here in supposedly conservative Phoenix. Mainstream Americans have taken our majority for granted, but we've realized we can't. The corporations and banks have a MAJORITY OF THE MONEY, and it seems that has meant more than people.

Many millions of Americans, including myself, have spoken out, organized, marched, and demonstrated for peace, opposing needless and destructive wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and covert actions overthrowing democracies, subverting foreign governments, and supporting right-wing dictators in Latin America and other places throughout the world.
Since the American Revolution, America has fought only two unavoidable wars: the Civil War and World War II. The history of US foreign policy has, for the most part, been nothing to be proud of. We should, however, take pride in our right to speak freely and oppose the wrongdoings, and protect and defend those rights when they are challenged.
We should be alarmed and protest when anyone who is working for peace and justice is threatened, harrassed, or arrested by officials in our own government. These documents show that US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and the FBI have blatantly violated the very rights they have sworn to uphold, targeting at least two peace activists in Minneapolis. Write your Congressman.

COX INTERNET TOOK MY SPACE AWAY!
But I got a new one.
--Captain Rat


Arizona Issues, 2012


For my view of the issues, and links to two other blogs analyzing the propositions, follow the above link


The Secretary of State issues a booklet, the General Election Guide, which has 160 pages this year. To be a well-informed voter, you need bright light, good eyes, or a strong pair of reading glasses. Despite its thickness, the print is small and the pages are the cheapest possible newsprint. No doubt the state intends to save money while fulfilling its legal requirements.

If you need large print, or Spanish, or both, you have to call one of several phone numbers, or visit www.azsos.gov. If you can't read the booklet, there's a number to call to hear it read to you. If you do that, I hope you don't have to pay by the minute.

Still, it's important to understand what we're being asked to decide, whatever you have to do to get the information.

--cosmic rat Oct 13, 2012


DO NOT NEGLECT TO VOTE.

The polls are trending toward an Obama victory. Do not let this make you overconfident. The Republicans are putting every obstacle they can in the way of probable Democratic voters. It is an ugly, ruthless tactic, showing no respect for democracy or ethics, but if you are a voter who faces such obstacles, fight back. Don't assume your vote isn't needed. Find out what you need to do to vote, and do it. Help others in the same situation. Even if you have to stand in long lines and wait, it is worth it, not only for the vote itself, but to prove you can't be denied your most important right as an American citizen.

Not only do we need to re-elect the President by the widest possible margin, but each and every seat in the Senate and the House is important. It looks like an increasingly good chance we can win some of those too.

Elizabeth Warren should be able to beat Scott Brown in Massachusetts, especially after his mindless attempt to attack her racial identity.

Richard Carmona, a man with a truly impressive list of accomplishments in service to his country, could well defeat the inane Flake in Arizona.

Claire McCaskill in Missouri is running against the infamous Akin whose outrageous and wrong denial of a raped woman's right to end her unwanted pregnancy should horrify even Republicans. What voters should remember about Akin is that, though many Republicans condemned his extreme position, many of them are not far from his beliefs, and that threatens women's rights throughout the country.

In Texas, the Democrat Paul Sadler faces a Republican who wants to abolish the Department of Education. Just on that issue, Cruz, the Republican should be soundly defeated. Of course, Texas has had some odd views on education, attempting to use it to feed children propaganda, not facts, but there are many intelligent people in the state as well.

In Virginia, the Republican, Allen, favors privatising Social Security. If Tim Kaine, the Democrat, wins, that dangerous and unpopular idea may well be defeated along with Allen. Why Republicans foolisly want to harm the most successful and sound government program in America is a mystery. Social Security will be fully funded for years, and only requires small adjustments to make it last many decades beyond that.

Any voters whose district has a Republican Representative should do their best to oust him or her. The House has been the main obstacle to any job-creating legislation since 2010. There has been steady job growth nevertheless, but the pace could be quickened with Congressional support.

Do NOT become complacent. We have far more than re-electing the President to do

-cosmicrat September 27, 2012

Some Thoughts on Economics

Ideological economics theories polarize and divide, while neither extreme would solve our real-world problems.

Let Us Alone?

A selfist wrote, speaking to the 'the government': Leave us alone. We don't need you to make it better.
Of course you don't. For YOU, it already IS as good as you can imagine.

ARIZONA'S POLITICAL DESERT

If someone were to ask whether Arizona is full of political corruption, I might answer with the question, Is the state run by Republicans?
The answer to both questions is, of course, YES. It's sort of like asking if the Pope is Catholic. I am a long-time resident of the Phoenix area, and I love the beauty and climate of Arizona and many of the people, but Republicans and conservatives have done serious social and economic harm here, and it should be put right..

Oil: Last Century's Energy

Remember when 20th Century sounded modern, or at least current? It was an exciting 100 years, but it's in the past now. Much of its technology, as wonderful as it was then, belongs in the realm of nostalgia.
Oil, sucked from deep underground, has been extremely useful in powering everything we do. We Americans use more of it than anyone else, though others are catching up:

Whose Economy Is It?


We need not wonder why our economic system is dysfunctional. We are letting the animals run the zoo. We have the mistaken notion that an economy exists for the use of private enterprise to conduct activities for profit. Though private enterprise is a useful and necessary part of the system, it does not own the economy, nor should it be allowed to run it.
In this article I examine why our economy doesn't work for us, and what we might do about it. It will not be easy to take back our government and our economic system, but the most important step is to realize that we must.

BEWARE THE REPUBLICAN ECONONOMY LIES

Stop letting their deceptive propaganda work against the people!
Iran and Venezuela
There is news that Iran and Venezuela may cooperate on a deal involving Russian missles. Some have expressed concern that missles in Venezuela could reach US territory

This is the a predictable confluent result of two US erroneous and shortsighted foreign policies, both of which created unnecessarily adversarial relationships.

As we know, our original problems with Iran were created when we assisted the British in overthrowing Iran's democratic government to save their oil interests. Then we proceeded to sell the Shah nuclear power technology, supplying technicians and fuel. After the Iranian revolution, even well after the hostage situation was resolved, the US not only did not resume technical assistance and fuel supplies but pressured most other countries and the IAEA itself to refuse. As a result, we lost our opportunity to participate in and monitor their nuclear power program, we created distrust and ill will, and left Iran no choice but to enrich their own fuel.

Regarding Venezuela, it should not need mentioning that we have a well-deserved reputation for meddling in or overthrowing Latin American governments that resist American companies' one-sided exploitation of their resources and labor. The time for treating the continent as a collection of semi-colonial subsidiaries is past, as the popular Chavez government in Venezuela should remind us. Yet, rather than accept Venezuela's need and desire to reduce poverty and improve its citizens' lives, we treat it as an adversary. malign it, and seek to cause it economic harm.

So, we should not be surprised that these two nations may cooperate. Obviously, neither nor both together are any real threat militarily, except to deter an attack on either country by the US.

We can look to a future in which more Latin American nations form alliances with one another to protect their national sovereignty from US interference. Brazil and Bolivia are no longer allowing Washington to dictate either their domestic or foreign policies. Other nations as well are concerned about the right-wing coup in Honduras, which the US originally criticized, not admitting it was aided by the CIA, and by subversive attempts to influence Brazil's elections.

It seems there is a sort of inertia in foreign policy that makes it difficult to change until long after change is needed, even by a President who one might think would recognize that need. A greater effort must be made to call attention to continued American destructive foreign policies and demand they be corrected.

Temporary Setback
A well-funded, continuous, and intense program of propaganda can be devastating to its target, especially when there are unsettling economic conditions.

This is the key to understanding the results of the midterm election on November 2, 2010. Considering the resources and ruthlessness of the opposition, Democrats actually did fairly well, retaining control of the Senate and defeating some of the House challengers.

In some cases it helped that some of the teaparty=sponsored Republicans took positions so extreme as to make traditional conservatives hesitate.

For those who are somehow not aware, the teaparty "movement" did not originate spontaneously as a "grass roots" trend. It was created by professional organizers funded by corporate money from the Koch brothers, oil billionaires. Since its first strategic target was health care reform, insurance companies were no doubt involved as well. Its purpose was to create the appearance of widespread popular opposition to health care reform from some of the very people who would benefit from reform.

Propagandists know that once this illusion is created, a certain percentage of the public will be conviced to join it, giving it every appearance of a real movement.

In case anyone has the impression that propaganda is something only Nazis and communists do, remember that in its commercial form, propaganda is called advertising. Political propaganda is nothing new in America. It was used effectively to get the public to accept entering World War I, even after Wilson had promised to keep us out, and there was no real need for our involvement.

Anti-communist propaganda has been used for the last century, intensified after World War II, when the USSR changed from ally to adversary, and the Cold War was born. Communism was an easy target, exemplified by Stalinism, with its lack of political freedom. However, such propaganda efforts hit more than a specific foe, but conflated soviet communism, democratic socialism, and even political liberals who only want to humanize capitalism.

This is why, inaccurate as they are, accusations of 'socialism' are effective weapons in a society that has been exposed to propaganda for several generations. Propaganda seldom relies on truth to be effective. Any statement repeated often enough, especially by anyone well-known, with access to broadcast media, will gain a number of believers.

There are interesting times ahead, but not necessarily a disaster for progress. We have achieved a great deal so far, and our task now is to preserve it, and to use our voices to add as much intelligence as we can to the public discussion.
--Cosmicrat, November 12, 2010

MIDTERM ELECTION, 2010


Eight False Things The Public KnowsPrior To Election Day

The Right-Wing Teabaggers' Backup Plan: VIOLENT OVERTHROW
These people do NOT believe in democracy. They are trying to use democracy with their constant misleading and false propaganda, but they will sell America out to the corporations who are funding them at unprecedented levels. They don't CARE what the people want or need. They want to END civil rights, religious freedom, a woman's right to choose, Social Security, Medicare, and health care reform.

ARIZONA REPUBLICANS TO REJECT:

Arizona Governor: Jan Brewer
Surrounded by lobbyists in both her governing and campaign offices. Flat-out lied about headless bodies in the desert, and later lied about whether she stated the original lie. Twisted the truth about balancing the budget. Made up an assertion about the majority of immigrants being drug mules. Continues to pretend job creation is due to her leadership rather than federal stimulus. Continues to dodge debates.
VOTE FOR TERRY GODDARD

Arizona Attorney General: Tom Horne
Banned for life by Securities and Exchange Commission for lying to investors; lied in multiple filings on behalf of his law firm with the Arizona Corporation Commission by hiding his past bankruptcy (disclosure is required by law); lying in current campaign cycle about Democratic candidate Felecia Rotellini’s impressive record

Arizona Treasurer: Douglas Ducey
Failed to pay his taxes on time for three of the last four years until the day after his campaign kick-off event; delinquent on filing his company’s basic corporate paperwork; failed to fill out personal finance disclosure forms properly; his flawed business model at ColdStone Creamery bankrupted numerous franchisees and left taxpayers holding the bag for $53 million in unpaid federal loans.
VOTE FOR ANDREI CHERNY

Arizona Secretary of State: Ken Bennett
Close to lobbyists and corporate special interests. Of the supporters listed on his website, more than 60 are paid special-interest lobbyists. Suspended public disclosure rules in order to keep 492 lobbyists from getting fined. The CEO of an oil company, Bennett as Senate president forced through a law that let his own company off the hook for spilling toxic chemicals and passed the cost for clean-up on to the taxpayers.
VOTE FOR CHRIS DESCHENE

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction: John Huppenthal
Says one thing and does another, to an extreme. Claims to have a record of improving Arizona schools, but under his watch as state Senate Education Chairman, Arizona schools were cut to the bone and are now 49th in the nation in per-student funding. Opposes early childhood education, as evidenced by his vote to send First Things First to the ballot for repeal. Opposes all-day kindergarten, saying it is pathetic public policy and Arizonans only support it because of brainwashing.
VOTE FOR PENNY KOTTERMAN

Arizona State Mine Inspector: Joe Hart
Assumed office in 2006 without the required underground mining experience and then had mining lobbyists and his Republican pals in the Legislature quietly change the experience requirements so he would qualify this time around in in 2010.
VOTE FOR MANUEL CRUZ

It's Just Justice, Not Rocket Science

It amazes me that the people most likely to invoke the Constitution in their rhetoric are so often the same ones who advocate violating it when it protects the rights of an accused whose "type" they especially hate. And, when we defend our Constitution (not the alleged actions of the accused criminal), we are accused of sympathy for the crime.

Is it not possible to apply enough logic and reason to realize that two different things are actually NOT the same thing? In a Constitutional government based on the rule of law, the law is to be applied exactly the same way to everyone. No exceptions, no changing the rules to suit the public opinion of the person being tried.

Sometimes I wonder how we have kept our freedom this long when there are citizens either unable or unwilling to understand the principles of our system of justice. Incidentally, that was the Miranda Decision, not the Miranda Act. It was a Supreme Court decision that came about because suspects were in fact being deprived of their right not to self-incriminate and their right to an attorney by being misinformed or not informed of those rights. Note Amendments 4, 5, and 6 http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html

It should also be remembered that the Bill of Rights did not invent or create the rights it enumerated. These were considered to be the natural rights of a free person, which existed before the USA and its Constitution were created.

If all that seems just a little too complicated to comprehend, then perhaps we could all remember the last 6 words of the Pledge of Allegiance: "with liberty and justice for all.".


On the Road to Universal Health Care

It has been a long, strange trip. We aren't quite there yet, but we've finally reached the first main rest stop. We can, and should, celebrate for a bit, relax, and then take a look at the map and plan the rest of the route.

The law we have achieved thanks to extremely hard work by both Congress and the President is a very good and necessary set of provisions. We will find that more is needed, primarily a public option to reduce the cost of insurance and of health care as a whole

But an important part of this victory is that to win it, we, the people through a majority of our Congress took on major corporations that have been throwing huge amounts of money into propagandizing the people and outright buying Senators and Congresspersons, determined to prevent reform and to protect their profits at any cost.

We have all at times despaired at the level of big-money corruption that has often thwarted the will of the people. What makes it harder to fight is the way they use their money to delude people. But what we have found that even though they will even resort to threats and inciting violence, we can overcome them. Yes, we can.

We needed to know that-- to prove it, because to make the changes required in many other areas like financial institution regulation, environmentally friendly energy sources, and even foreign policy, we must face huge corporate and banking interests.

The following link is a summary of Health Care provisions I suggest everyone read it so you will understand when a Republican lies to you.


A Non-ideological Summary
Regulations placed on the practice of capitalism are indeed not "socialism" any more than traffic laws are anti-driving. In both cases the purpose is to enable all the safe enjoyment of the activity without harming others.

Nor are social programs that ameliorate the harm done to the general public by inadequately controlled capitalism, or by its negative side-effects-- programs which may enable the continued use of the capitalist mechanism without destroying the society of which it is a part-- they are not socialism either. Some of them may have been ideas stolen from socialists, but used for a different purpose: not to replace capitalism, but to SAVE it.

It would be intelligent of the practitioners of capitalism to understand that a healthy and prosperous general population is to their enterprises' long-term advantage, but they think only as far as their next bottom line.

We need to find ways to protect our government from the corporate corruption, so that it will have the ability to protect us.

Iced Tea
It seems the teabaggers are proposing the restoration of literacy tests for voting. They imagine, I suppose, that they would reduce the number of poor and minority voters.
The ironic thing is that if the literacy test covered anything more advanced than "See Dick run" (and I hope he doesn't), many of the teabaggers would probably fail.
When the Vice Governor of South Carolina orates that poor people are like stray animals- if you feed them they'll breed, it is easy to see just how hateful and inhuman the right wing can get.
And just how far from American values have they gotten when they can actually criticize an accused suspect being read his Miranda rights? Never mind the fact that doing it right has actually gotten more information than they otherwise would have-- this is the United States of America, and justice is not optional.
It's not easy to imagine the combination of ignorance and absolute selfishness being widespread enough to seriously impair progress, in a country where education and information are so available to all.
But dysinformation and selfist propaganda has big money on its side, and that will get worse.
I recall a line from a Jim Morrison song: "They've got the guns, but we've got the numbers..."
But we have to make the numbers count.

ELECTIONS ARE COMING and we're under attack. We've got to stop the forces of darkness.

Do you think I'm exaggerating? Not a bit. These are extremists who are playing on the dissatisfaction that comes with recession and unemployment to try to destroy the progress we've worked so hard for. Don't sit this one out! It is not Someone Else's Problem. It's OUR problem!
Democrats, liberals, and progressives:

We elected Barack Obama enthusiastically, not just as the only alternative to the disaster waiting to happen that John McCain and Sarah Palin would have been. Our enthusiasm was based on a strong hope of a serious and long-needed alteration of the way America related to the rest of the world, and a hope for laws and policies that would protect all Americans from the greed and influence of corporate power.

We also elected as many Democrats as possible to help get this done. Those of us who were realistic knew that none of this would be easy, and that the new President and Congress faced unprecedented problems, most of ithem the direct result of the incompetence and malfeasance of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, though some of the economic disaster was the culmination of the policies begun by Ronald Reagan.

Nevertheless, some of us were disappointed at the continuation of the Afghan war, a conflict just as pointless as the one in Iraq. We are disappointed that Guantanamo is not yet closed, and that too few war crimes have been prosecuted.

Still, despite an extreme and heavily corporate-funded full-scale attack by the right wing, the record of achievement of Obama and Congress has been impressive. Not everything; not perfect, but better than any other President has done in so short a time.

Now that right-wing attack threatens to cripple further progress. Under normal conditions, the extremists running as Republicans wouldn't stand a chance, but 10 percent unemployment is not normal conditions. That figure, last seen during the Reagan administration, makes enough people nervous and unhappy that they listen to any opposition, no matter how untruthful that opposition may be.

We know that unemployment can't be fixed overnight. We know it is the result of a Republican caused recession. And we know that Democratic policies will improve the economy sooner than Republicans would.

But because the economy isn't fixed yet, more people will believe lies because they are looking for someone new to blame.

Regardless of any disappointment we may have, this is no time to abandon the cause of progress. The alternative is not just lack of progress, it is regression: going backward. Backward into the bigotry of yesteryear, the authoritarian control over our private lives; the cold disregard for the needy; the loyal service to corporate wealth.

Two years is not nearly enough time on which to base a judgment of a President and a Congress, especially not in the middle of a recession, and not when we are being attacked with ever dollar and every lie the Republicans can muster.

We still have the structure of a government of and by the people. The extent to which the people are not in control is exactly as much as we fail to care, fail to act; fail to vote.

We, the normal, sane Americans who WANT our country to progress, prosper, and contribute to a better, more harmonious world for all-- we are the majority. We have the numbers to go to the polls and save our ideals from being derailed.

Let's do it.

-cosmic rat, October 27, 2010

Congressional candidates NOT to vote for, and some positive recommendations

Dump McCain-- vote for Rod Glassman for Senator

We've watched Jan Brewer lie to our faces on national TV. Vote for Terry Goddard for Governor

ARIZONA'S INDECENT PROPOSITIONS

Arizona Proposition 106: HELL NO! Insurance companies want to destroy health care reform. THEY WANT TO PROTECT THEIR OBSCENE PROFITS

Arizona Proposition 107: HELL NO! This is a fraud.

This proposition is NOT FOR equality, it is an attack on equality!
It is an attempt to ban all affirmative action programs. It will block progress toward equal opportunity for minorities in education, employment, and small business.

Arizona Proposition 109: Another fraud. We already have the right to hunt and fish. This opposes wildlife preservation efforts. Vote NO.

Arizona Proposition 113: NO! Its purpose is to make it harder for workers to unionize.

In another attempt to deceive voters, they are saying "save our secret ballot". This is not about your election ballot! Nobody wants to change that. This only about employees voting whether to have a union. In that situation, the "secret ballot" is only a ploy making it easier to intimidate and discourage workers from choosing to unionize.
This proposition is intended to block the national Employee Free Choice Act if it is passed by Congress
It is already hard in Arizona. Don't make it worse.

Arizona Proposition 301: Raid the Land Conservation Fund-- NO!

Jan Brewer lied when she said she balanced the budget; now she's still trying to balance it by grabbing the Land Conservation Fund, set aside by voters to preserve Arizona's natural beauty and specifically to fund our schools when any state lands are sold. Don't let her!

Arizona Proposition 302: Raid the Childhood Health & Development fund NO.

To be born in Arizona should not mean a second-rate childhood. Arizona continues to rank near the worst in education. First Things First, funded by cigarette taxes, helps prepare children to get the most out of school.




EDUCATION AND POLITICS
Recently I heard it mentioned that voters in the blue states were, on the average, better educated than those in the red states. Intuitively, that seems obvious, but I decided to correlate some hard data that would show it true beyond a doubt.

Sure enough, the statistics show clearly that states voting Democratic had a better educational rating than those with Republican majorities.
Here is the Election-Education Table

BEWARE THE REPUBLICAN ECONONOMY LIES



AMERICA UNDER ATTACK

More Political news


A CASE OF KIDNAPPING
When I first heard the story of the Haiti kidnappers' arrest, I thought "Well-meaning but stupid." But after a few more facts came out, I realized they were not well-meaning at all, and they fully deserve being arrested, tried, and if found guilty, imprisoned.
Taking advantage of a disaster, pretending to "help", and snatching children in order to impose their particular brand of Christianity on them is an even more heinous act than kidnapping for ransom.
Secretary of State Clinton has rightly said, "It is a matter for the Haitian courts to decide." That it is.
No doubt the kidnappers, seeing that at first Haiti was virtually without government and police after the earthquake, thought they could get away with their crime amid the chaos. In effect, they were looters of the worst kind, stealing not food or even objects, but human beings.
Christianity has a long sordid history of forcing its beliefs on others, fomenting wars to convert the conquered, conducting inquisitions, and, even in the US, kidnapping children to brainwash them. Despite the First Amendment, that was systematically done to American natives. Not long ago a local government in Texas tried to confiscate the children of a Mormon sect.
Religions that follow their own best principles usually do good, not harm. Because religion is by nature irrational, its adherents are also vulnerable to those who would twist its preachings into offensive and often deadly kinds of action.
I hope that a lesson is learned from that crime, that no nation, no culture, no matter what emergencies or problems it may have, takes lightly the insult of preying on the minds of their children.
--cosmic rat 02--06-2010

STATE OF THE UNION, 2010
Many things can be said about the list of issues President Obama addressed in his speech, but I have the following overall impressions:
It is clear that the President is a man who cares very deeply and strongly about the people of the United States and of the world of which we are a part. Even those who disagree with his approach should admit that to themselves, if not aloud. Barack Obama does not shout his feelings. He speaks calmly, clearly; with reasoned arguments, as a President should, but that does not disguise his dedication to serve well the people who elected him.

Considering the array of problems the President faces, it is hard not to think of fables in which a ruler or a god offers a brave knight a great prize to do an impossible task- to slay a dragon, or rescue a princess from a powerful evil captor.
The problems in our reality are not insurmountable, but the pace of solution demanded by the impatient makes them even harder to overcome.
We Americans have learned that we are not guaranteed a good President. When we are lucky enough to have elected one, I hope most of us can also learn to appreciate him, and be just a little more patient when his task is to move a mountain he didn't create.

We're Just too Principled Sometimes
Leftist revolutionaries may have theorized that the end justifies the means, but peaceful democratic progressives have almost always rejected that notion. Unfortunately the radicals of today, the right-wing minority have adopted it enthusiastically.

It is tempting at times for liberals to try to match that ruthlessness, but we never actually do, which is why, despite a clear majority, we get so little done.

A MOVIE REVIEW
I am often amazed by what seems to be a cinematic competition to spill the most blood and portray monsters both human and alien that seem to take great joy in dismembering and/or eating people. I wonder if they have actually run out of ideas, or they assume this is what we want to see, perhaps to desensitize ourselves in order to face real life


House Hunting in the West Bank
Our Jerusalem correspondent finds that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's argument for allowing continued construction in settlements contains layers of deception.
Gershom Gorenberg | June 4, 2009





GO AHEAD, CALL ME A SOCIALIST! Jul 4, '09 7:43 AM No matter how carefully we progressives define our position on American political issues, the cement-brained right-wingers are going to call us socialists. They see the world as either/or, not both/and. You're either one of them or the complete opposite.

In the interest of being precise, we often attempt to explain that, no, here's the socialist position, here is ours, and they are not the same. It's not actually being defensive, but it sounds a bit that way. And it allows the right wing to continue labeling socialism as a bad thing.

It is not a bad thing. It isn't even all ONE thing. In general it is a lot of ideas from many different thinkers whose purpose is to address the harmful effects of capitalism and the greed that drives it. Many of those ideas have proved valuable and effective in many nations around the world.

Any time an economic theory becomes an ideology with rigid, religious-like adherents, problems result. It becomes too difficult to change what doesn't work and try new ideas. This is a problem with capitalists today, and has been a problem with socialism as well.

Most democratic governments are comprised of several political parties, of which socialists are one or two. The result is usually a compromise that employs the most useful features of capitalism and socialism without too much concern over labeling them. But in arriving at a balance it is important to start with the views of both ends of the political spectrum.

We don't have that in the US the socialist label is avoided. It is the victim of over a hundred years of propaganda that associated socialism with communism of the totalitarian variety that resulted in the Russian Revolution, resulting in generations of unreasoning fear. Witch hunts and inquisitions ruined many lives over no more than unfounded accusations.

Just as we've made progress in reducing racism, sexism, and many other prejudices, we need to learn to speak and think calmly and rationally about politics and economics, and stop putting shock values on labels.

To do that, we on the progressive side, a growing majority of Americans, need to stop being afraid of being called socialist. The right-wingers are going to call us that anyway, so we might as well learn to like it. Embrace it. We may not be ideological socialists, but I'd bet we all approve of Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, the Minimum Wage, all ideas begun by socialists.

And now, years late, after millions of Americans have needlessly suffered and died because they could not afford health care, could not afford health insurance, or couldn't get insured at any price, all due to the insane non-system that allows insurance companies, drug companies, and medical providers make obscene profits by bleeding the sick of every dime they can.

A large majority of Americans want universal health care, and still there is a struggle with lobbyist-corrupted Congressmen and a highly funded lie and distortion campaign.

Yes, national health care is also a socialist idea, one so basic and vital that every other developed nation in the world has adopted it in various form, and is much better off and healthier because of it.

So, if someone calls you a socialist, smile and say "thank you". If a socialist calls you a capitalist, that's all right too. Today, July 4th, declare independence from labels. --COSMIC RAT





CHRISTIAN DOMESTIC TERRORISM May 31 2009

Does anyone still doubt the threat OF DOMESTIC TERRORISTS after today's church assassination of the doctor in Wichita?

So far the anti-abortion extremists' crimes have been less spectacular than the Muslim variety, but this is because their terrorism is aimed not at an entire nation but specifically at doctors and other health care workers who provide abortions for women who choose them.

They hope to frighten others into abandoning their principles and giving in to the extremist demands. No one wants to live in fear of being stalked by a religion-crazed killer, though most dedicated health care professionals will courageously continue, no doubt with precautions.

The use of a lone assassin makes it harder to determine whether there is an organized group involved. It is worthy of note that immediately after the murder was reported, some people were expressing approval for the crime. At the very least there seems to be a number of anti-abortionists who are inciting others to carry out their deadly intentions.

Anti-abortionists like to call themselves "pro-life" That is deceptive. They are NOT pro-life. Obviously, what they are FOR is imposing on everyone their own extremist belief that a fetus is the same as a human being.

What they are AGAINST is the concept that a woman is a fully equal human being with human rights that include the right to control her own body and decide for herself whether to reproduce.

It is this theocratic authoritarianism for which they are willing to kill in an attempt to force it upon the rest of us.

I sincerely hope that there is a thorough nationwide investigation designed to root out all who advocate, incite, or plot murders like that committed today, Sunday, March 31, 2009.

Nature of Morality

Morality has a biological basis, and is found in other social animals. The survival and welfare of the group as a whole is vital to individual survival, so it is not surprising that those with an inherent inclination to have concern for and cooperate with others would be more apt to survive themselves and reproduce.

If one were to write the Genetic Commandments, there might be three: (1) Thou shalt not kill one another, lest there be no one left to help when the saber-toothed tiger cometh. (2) Thou shalt not do things likely to piss others off and make them likely to violate rule #1. (3) Thou needeth friends, so be one.

Of course no one needed to write these down, until religion-inventors decided to take credit for common knowledge, then add supernatural embellishments.



HEALTH CARE


There is no valid argument for keeping the status quo regarding health care in the US. Those opposing a national health care plan are representing those who are reaping huge profits from inequitable dispensation of medical care. Their arguments are based on myths and outright lies.

The actual facts are clear and have been available for many years. Not only are we, as a nation, paying much more for less health care, but the quality of health care is dependent primarily on the level of income.

Examples of effective, fair, and efficient systems are present in several major countries. Since we are behind most of the world on this issue, we do have the advantage of learning from the successes of other nations.






CHICKEN OR OMELET?

Listening to a debate on NPR over who is most at fault for the financial crisis, Washington or Wall Street, I heard valid arguments for both sides, though it began to sound like a chicken-or-egg question. It isn't either-or, it's both-and. We know that regulation was inadequate. Much of that was due to the Reaganesque stone-age economic ideology that claims that capitalism fixes itself. Some of it was due to Congressional corruption by money from Wall Street. But an important factor in this is not bribery but INTIMIDATION. The money people induce fear by threatening economic harm to the country if they don't get their way. They do this both directly and through their pocket-sized alter-egos, otherwise known as Republicans.

At one point before the crisis, in response to regulation proposals, bankers and investment companies were threatening to move their operations to London if Congress tried to restrict them. Since such institutions usually have offices in London and other major world cities, their threats were credible.

Most of the threats now are less drastic but still effective. They will claim that it will harm the economic recovery or make it worse, and since banks, Wall Street, and corporations are in positions to make such effects appear to be happening, Congress and the President may tend to hesitate before making the needed changes, though there is increasing realization that the best course is to get tough. Right now Europe and other G-20 nations are emphasizing better regulation. Some of them, like Canada and Poland were already better regulated and were affected less by the economic crash. Others, like the UK, had gone along with the US in too-loose oversight and learned from that mistake.

Republicans, on behalf of their money-people, predict dire consequences for even the tiny 3 percent high-income tax increase. They fail to mention that the economy ran just fine for years when the top tax was over 70 percent. With the increase it will still be less than 40 percent, which is probably still too low for the long term. For the system to restore and maintain a large middle class of consumers who can afford the products and services of the business sector, sufficiently graduated income tax is necessary to prevent too much wealth flowing to the wealthiest and away from the rest of us.

The other needed means to that end is stronger capability of labor to organize and collectively bargain. A strong labor movement increases wages for all workers, not just the ones who are actually unionized.
Unions came under devastating attack by Reagan and placed at a disadvantage, with the result that average pay has not increased, but expenses have gone up dramatically. Here again we hear right-wing threats that employers will go bankrupt if they become unionized, as they fear will happen as a result of the Employee Free Choice Act. They talk of protecting the 'secret ballot' for unionization votes. Although unions once thought secret ballots important, it turns out that company owners have developed strategies to delay and inhibit unionization by manipulating the prescribed procedures. The proposed law only attempts to level the playing field. Employers have the advantage of being able to 'campaign' against unionization on their premises during work hours, while unions must present their side off premises. The 'card check' method serves to reduce the delay before a formal unionization ballot, reducing the opportunity for employers to intimidate workers.
It should be remembered that companies both large and small who are treating their workers fairly and paying them acceptable wages need not fear unionization. But those who are seeking to take advantage of rising unemployment by paying as little as possible or requiring long hours under poor conditions should not be able to stifle union organizing as easily as they can now.

AIG is the biggest single example of the big-money vs. government standoffs. As President Obama pointed out, they were intending to hold the country hostage, comparing them to a terrorist with a bomb with a thumb on the detonate button. Would those overpaid, over-bonused so-called financial wizards actually push the button? It seems that Congress, with the support of millions of angry Americans, has called their bluff. Whether or not AIG can or should be saved is another question, which remains to be seen.

Republicans need to pull their heads out of the corporate asses and use them to think for a change. That law-and-order attitude they have toward ordinary street crime needs to be applied to the crooks in expensive suits. The harm done by white-collar criminals, including those whose crimes aren't even illegal yet, is many, many times greater than the other kind.

And we all need to remember when we hear the money-people whine, that when they 'create jobs', loan us money, and make money from nothing with their financial tricks, outrageous usury, and high-stakes gambling, they aren't doing it for us! They're doing it for THEMSELVES, and will continue to do the useful parts after we ban the dangerously unsafe practices. They will continue making profits even when they have to pay workers fairly, and when they have to pay a fairer share of taxes.

They already collect most of the golden eggs; we don't need to give them the whole goose. Unless they bend over.


Economic Baromometer?

Just in case anyone actually thinks that the performance of the stock market, or the opinions of Wall Street 'experts' is any indication of how President Obama is doing in restoring the economy, check out this video: CNBC GIVES FINANCIAL ADVICE

How do you think the swindlers and thieves on Wall Street are going to feel about the NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN? That's right, they don't like him. Too bad, Wall Street. It's the REAL economy that's going to be fixed. Want along for the ride? Then, get real.


THE TRENT FRANKS OUTRAGE

Trent Franks is an Arizona Congressman. He is not my Representative-- his district is west of mine, but still I feel embarrassed for my state every time I hear him speak on CSPAN. His latest utterance is an attempt to turn black civil rights leaders against women's rights, claiming that Planned Parenthood is a racist organization. He had the gall to use a resolution comemorating the NAACP's 100th anniversary to spout this stupidity.

Other anti-abortion extremists have alledged that Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice organizations are "promoting" abortion, even accusing them of wanting to profit from it. Those are absurd lies. No one wants to increase the number of abortions. To the contrary, those providing birth control information and services are helping to make abortions unnecessary for many millions of women.

The civil rights movement pioneered by the NAACP and joined by many other organizations and people has made great progress in reducing racial prejudice and enabling equal rights for all.
Planned Parenthood has contributed greatly to the cause of sexual equality, including the crucial right of a woman to control her own body. Birth control, both its knowledge and availability, not only empowers women to pursue careers and decide for themselves whether they want children, but also makes it possible to avoid world overpopulation. It reduces the number of unwanted children who are often inadequately cared for and may become disadvantaged adults as a result.

Abortion is the last resort in birth control, used only when other forms have failed or could not be provided in time. Not all women will choose this means, but they have the right to do so, and to be fully informed about all their options. Those who oppose abortion, whether because of religious beliefs or opposition to women's equality, have the rate to their opinion, but not to force others to share it.

Trent Franks' absurd claim that Planned Parenthood is trying to reduce the number of black people by informing and serving black women, just as they do all races, is an irresponsible use of his elected office and the audience it provides. America has had enough of public officials who lie to the public they are supposed to serve. The people of western Arizona should replace him at their earlies opportunity.

--February 10, 2009

WHY PHOTO-RADAR IS A BAD IDEA

Aside from the fact that photo-radar is a blatant attempt to generate large amounts of revenue with an arbitrary and unverifiable automated system, the following, from an article by Adam O'Donnell on ZDNet, shows what can and will happen:

In a brilliant physical-world example of what happens when too much value is placed upon open identification systems for determining reputation, a group of high school students are setting off speeding enforcement cameras using fake license plates belonging to their enemies.

According to an article in the D.C. area Montgomery County Sentinel, high school students are generating photorealistic replicas of their enemies license plates, placing them on their vehicles, and blowing through speeding cameras. Obviously people who have been victimized by this attack are upset, but at least one anonymous individual hits the nail on the head:

'The practice of sending speeding tickets to faceless recipients without any type of verification is unwarranted and an exploitation of our rights.'


The best response to a photo-radar ticket, it has been said, is to do absolutely nothing. Don't acknowledge receiving it, don't pay it. They have to prove it was you, and your car, and obviously they can't. That's the unofficial advice of those who have studied the subject. I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know if that's true.

But obviously, trying to automate what only actual police, using actual human judgment, should be doing, is a bad idea, for more reason than one. Who knows whose plate might be faked next for the camera? It could even be a city councilman or a state legislator.

--captain rat
Dec. 24, 2008

ASSEMBLING THE FACTS

OK, my Fellow Americans, now that so many of the facts have been undeniably uncovered-- now that we KNOW we were lied to, although I'm sure we don't yet know quite how many ways we were lied to, it's time to summarize what we do know.

OIL

Here's a very factual news story called Digging Deep. Nothing really new, but it tells the story clearly.

JAIL ROVE

Remember Karl Rove, the wily and ruthless arranger of stolen elections, who outed a CIA agent to try to discredit her husband when he exposed one of the lies about Iraq? Well, now it's time to Send Karl Rove to Jail He is in contempt of Congress if he continues to obstruct justice and refuses to testify under oath. He was responsible for using the US Justice Department to get a false conviction of Don Siegelman, a popular Democratic Governor in Alabama.

Convicting Bush

Speaking of prosecuting criminals, we could also Prosecute George W. Bush for murder according to Vincent Bugliosi. I believe it could be, and should be done.

In his book Bugliosi lays out the proof, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Bush KNOWINGLY lied to Congress and the people to justify the invasion of Iraq, even though it had not attacked us or even threatened to.

We should impeach him as well, but there are probably too many Republicans in the Senate to actually convict that way. But once out of office, he could be prosecuted for the death of any of the over 4000 Americans who died in Iraq. Bugliosi has a brilliant legal mind, and he explains how it can be done.

CRUEL AND UNUSUAL

As if it were not enough to kill a million Iraqis and thousands of American soldiers, there is the TORTURE. A tactic never before considered acceptable by Americans beginning with George Washington in the War for Independence. Even though the British used it on us. Bush, to insure there would be no inhibition against torture and brutal treatment, ordered that prisoners not be considered prisoners of war, nor subject to Geneva convention Common Article 3. In Afghanistan, prisoners were brutally beaten, some to death.
Outsourcing Torture was another means to the same end.

Torture was never really about getting information and confessions. It has long been known that most statements made under torture are unreliable. For anyone labeled a terrorist suspect, the "justice" system of America, long known for principles of a speedy and public trial by a jury of one's peers, and the need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, had become more like the equivalent of bombing a building full of people to kill one person inside. It reasoned, if you arrest enough suspects, some of them are surely guilty, so imprison and torture them all without trial, just to be sure.

Feel Safe?

Anyone who thinks they are in no danger from this new system should remember that there are a million names on the Terrorist Watch List, and many Americans who share one of those names have trouble getting on planes. Mistaken identities have caused some people to be held for years in Guantanamo.

NUMBER 9

Is this the NUMBER NINE that The Beatles were talking about in the song?

ARTICLE 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.(2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

Why not add this to the constitution of every nation on Earth, including ours.?

THE TRUE MILITARY DEATH STATS

If you have seen or heard of the email with some odd statistics on US military deaths under previous Presidents, and wondered how they could be true...THEY AREN'T. It was just another lie spread by someone hoping to confuse and misinform voters. Here is the military statistics table they left out, with the actual numbers, and the rather significant CAUSES of death.

MILITARY DEATH STATISTICS

Obviously a few people, including some so-called media journalists, have not yet realized that lies and distortion are no longer acceptable to American voters, whether they come from the President, a candidate, TV news, or some anonymous Republican extremist.

--CAPTAIN RAT

THAT OTHER WAR

As we try to pry the would-be American Emperor Bush loose from his favorite conquest, Iraq, we have spent far less time analyzing the first of our recent invasions, Afghanistan. We tend to see it as more justified, more necessary, because the terrorists were actually there.

True, Iraq has been much more deadly, destructive, and destabilizing, and is a higher priority to investigate and force an end to the insanity. But the story is not complete without a closer look at the deception that began it all.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

I urge everyone to follow the above link and read every word.
Many Democrats, even some of the most outspoken against the Iraq war, are either unaware or pretend not to know why we and our NATO allies are in Afghanistan. Yet it is something that they, and we, will need to deal with in order to fully restore honesty and openness to government, to understand the enormous scope of the deception, and the importance of removing corporate interests and wealth from its ability to influence foreign policy.

--captain rat
April 15, 2008

Deep in the Heart of Taxes

Republicans, and conservatives in general, have always liked to complain about taxes and 'spending'. Before the neoconservatives, they were relatively consistent about that, except for military budgets. Since everyone who works pays taxes, this gives them some appeal beyond the rich and the big business that they really represent. But, too often Americans seem to accept the crude basis of anti-taxation, which is I want to keep what I earn, and to hell with everyone else.
Naturally, when there is waste and improper use of public money, taxpayers should be upset. But let us consider the concept of legitimate taxation. It amounts to people cooperating to provide themselves with services and benefits that would be impractical and inefficient for each person to procure individually.
It is important to note that this is not a new concept. It is the very means by which mankind survived and became civilized. Our intelligence and dexterity would have availed us little without cooperation to take advantage of it.
As clans grew into cities and money was invented, systems of taxation got more complicated. They weren't always fair and reasonable, but the advantages increased with the numbers. It became possible to build infrastructure for common use and support protective forces. Commerce and trade became easier and safer, increasing proserity and the quality of life.
It should not be difficult to understand that public projects and agencies provide service and convenience that would be difficult for even wealthy individuals to provide for themselves. Many services that could be either public or private are cheaper and more fairly distributed by public means. Whenever evaluating tax rates, one must consider the value of the benefits from public funds as well as the cost of taxes paid.

It is indeed odd that Americans should complain about taxation, since we pay lower taxes than most of the rest of the world.
Total Percents
Rank_Country_Percent
1....Belgium: 55.6
2....Hungary: 52.6
3 ....Germany: 50.7
4....Sweden: 48.6
5 ....France: 48.3
6....Italy: 46.2
7....Finland: 45.9
8....Austria: 44.7
9 ....Denmark: 44.2
10 ....Turkey: 43.2
11...Czech Republic: 43
12 ...Poland: 42.9
13 ...Netherlands: 42.3
14 ...Slovakia: 42
15 ...Spain: 37.9
16 ...Norway: 37
17 ...Greece: 36
18...Luxembourg: 33.9
19 ...Portugal: 32.5
20...Canada: 30.2
21...United States: 30 22... United Kingdom: 29.7
23...Switzerland: 29.5
24...Ireland: 25.8
25...Iceland: 25.7
26 ...Japan: 24.2
27 ...Australia: 23.1
28 ...New Zealand: 19.6
29...Mexico: 15.6
Weighted average: 37.3
Corporate income tax
Rank_Country_Percent
1....Luxembourg: _20.5
2....Norway: _18.9
3....Australia: _16.8
4....Ireland: _13.1
5....Korea, So_th: _12.8
6....Japan: _12.2
7....New Zealand: _12.1
8....Czech Republic: _11.8
9....Greece: _10.4
10...Canada: _10.1
11...Finland: _9.3
12...Spain: _9.1
13...Netherlands: _8.8
14...Switzerland: _8.8
15...Slovakia: _8.2
16...United Kingdom: _8.1
17...Belgium: _7.6
18...Italy: _7.6
19...Turkey: _7.1
20...United States: _6.7
21...France: _6.6
22...Poland: _6.3
23...Hungary: _6.2
24...Denmark: _5.8
25...Austria: _5.1
26...Sweden: _4.8
27...Iceland: _3
28...Germany: _2.9
Weighted average: _9.3
Total taxation as percent of Gross Domestic Product. Rank_Country_Percent GDP
1....Sweden: 54.2
2....Denmark: 48.8
3....Finland: 46.9
4....Belgium: 45.6
5....France: 45.3
6....Austria: 43.7
7....Italy: 42
8....Netherlands: 41.4
9....Norway: 40.3
10...Germany: 37.9
11...United Kingdom: 37.4
12...Canada: 35.8
13...Switzerland: 35.7
14...New Zealand: 35.1
15...Australia: 31.5
16...Ireland: 31.1
17...United States: 29.6
18...Japan: 27.1
Weighted average: 39.4
Lower taxation is not necessarily a good thing. Countries with higher tax rates usually provide more and better services to their citizens. Consider the fact that the US has by far the worlds biggest military budget, yet taxes here are lower than many nations that spend less. That is because our government spends far less on health care, education, infrastructure, and social services than other comparable countries.

You may notice that Mexico has the lowest total tax rate.
The U.S. ranks 4th in GDP, yet it is 92nd in distribution of wealth The richest 5 percent live the best of all nations. The bottom 25 percent live worse than in countries such as Greece. The US, which has the world's most expensive medical system is counted as 37th as to quality of care by the World Health Organization.
In Germany, which has had universal health care since 1883, health care costs are10.7 percent of the GDP. In the US it is nearly 16%. The UK, which provides all health care throught the National Health Service, the cost is 7.7 percent of GDP. That system eliminates the need for private health insurance. It has what is called a single-payer system, which has proved most efficient.

In countries with universal health care, those which use private insurance require it for all, require insurers to accept all applicants, require the same charge for all, and ban capping payouts. These laws are needed to prevent the inherent problem of private health insurance in which companies try to maximize profits by insuring mostly healthy people.
By improving efficiency, universal health care would lower the overall cost of living. The benefits of increased life expectancy, reduced worry about costly health problems, and better quality of life through access to routine medical care throughout life, are beyond monetary value.
We should remember that those who want to sell the idea of lower taxes also mean to deny the public health care, adequete funding for education, repair for dangerous bridges. They deny these things for a little more corporate profit and a little less tax for the rich
Are low taxes really that important?

FICTIONAL ENEMIES

UNDERSTANDING CUBA
The hostility toward communist and strongly socialist governments is an outdated relic of the Cold War. It is detrimental to diplomacy now, and of doubtful usefulness even then.

The history of Cuba leading up to the Cuban Revolution is often ignored by those who disapprove of Castro. The role of the US, both government and mafia in producing the oppression leading to the revolution is also glossed over.

Nothing about that history would have justified any trust by Castro in US intentions, once the revolution was won, and certainly his distrust was confirmed and deepened. When Kennedy decided not to support the Bay of Pigs invasion, there may have been an opportunity to normalize relations with an official disavowal and apology for allowing it to happen at all. But the climate of anti-communism of the era would have made this difficult politically.

No nation or national leader wants to live in constant fear of a powerful neighbor. Castro's alliance with the USSR was the answer to that problem. Unfortunately the Russian missle importation went too far, and the resulting crisis made normal relations with the US even less likely, given the attitude-driven thinking of policy makers.

But it has been nearly 50 years since the Cuban missle crisis. The USSR no longer exists, yet no US President has managed to normalize relations and trade with Cuba. The US trade embargo is responsible for much hardship in the small island nation. It would probably be quite prosperous otherwise, but our government continues to punish the Cuban people merely for its economic system. In doing so we have not proved that there is anything wrong with communism. On the contrary, Cuba's system under Castro's leadership has shown that it can survive 50 years of economic persecution by a close and powerful capitalist nation.

If we can elect a sensible President and Congress, there are many nations to whom a sincere apology for past treatment is due, and to whom we should extend the hand of friendship. We should not be surprised, however, if they are slow to trust our government's motives, but the effort should be made nonetheless.

IRAN:
Recently a representative of Iran who had been pleading with the UN to stop following US dictates regarding sanctions for its nuclear fuel program, said that he didn't think Iran-US relations could be normalized EVEN UNDER A NEW US ADMINISTRATION!

That is a profoundly sad statement. It is understandable that the Iranian would believe that, given the extent that our country has persecuted his. Iran has been used as a scapegoat for US failure to control Iraq after defeating it. It has been accused of intending to build nuclear weapons, despite lack of evidence. Beyond that, the US, through the UN, seeks to deny Iran's right as a soveriegn nation to develop nuclear power on its own. There have been implied threats by both the US and Israel to attack Iran without provocation. How would you expect Iranians to feel?

And how can they know whether those of different mind can be trusted to improve relations once elected? They probably believe, with some justification, that the oil companies have power over both parties; that an American President would not be able to overcome the corporate influence and wealth.

I very much hope they are wrong about that. All the Democratic candidates have said they understand the problem of wealthy corporations subverting our democratic republic to use our military force for their own ends, not for the protection of Americans. As the 2008 Presidential Campaign progresses, it is becoming clear that the leading Democrats all have similar progressive ideas on both foreign and domestic policies, and the question is which might be most effective in getting them done.

It ismportant to remember that Presidential primaries are not just popularity contests; they are opportunities to present ideas and issues to the voters, and for candidates to learn from the input of the people who vote in them. The focus is not just determined by the winner, but by all the candidates. Dennis Kucinich made sure the need to end the Iraq occupation war was emphasized. John Edwards addressed the issues of poverty and harmful corporate influence. The issues dealt with by the winners are affected by the candidates who come in second, third, and fourth. That is why it is wrong to exclude from debate or coverage any candidate who is still running.

On the Republican side, it seems all their candidates are remarkably lacking a clue. McCain has never showed much intelligence. Once, many months ago, he appeared to have some principles when he spoke up against torture, but he has actually EXPERIENCED torture. Real principles should enable a person to oppose cruelty to others without having been a victim first. He continues to echo the lies and fearmongering propaganda of the Bush administration.

Romney clearly represents the corporate greed aspect of Republicanism that has led to imperialist foreign policy and the domestic failure of government to serve the people at home.

Huckabee promises theocracy. He is not only against abortion-- he is against birth control!

It is amazing how the word 'conservative' has been used to mean one who does not care about conserving the Constitution, or the environment, or even a balanced budget. So-called conservatives only want to cut spending when the money might help the people. They will spend trillions to kill Iraqis, but hardly any to rebuild New Orleans.

The Blame

When things go wrong, nobody wants to take the blame. A truly honest person will admit mistakes anyway, and will deserve and probably get more respect by doing so than by trying to blame others. Yet some so-called leaders, in positions of responsibility, seem not to have learned this basic truth.

Musharraf of Pakistan, in an outrageously offensive public statement, blames Bhutto for her own assassination. Blaming the victim for the crime has been done before, and it is almost always despicable. Perhaps he is trying to obscure the fact that his despotic behavior created the potential for violence. Perhaps he is even more directly to blame. Obviously standing up to wave at her supporters wasn't a good idea. Obviously JFK shouldn't have ridden in an open car in Dallas. Such speculation is pointless. When a group of people are determined to kill someone, they will probably keep trying until they do it. Find out who was really behind it, and who failed to stop it--that's the important thing.

Some politicians have attempted to blame Iraqis for not behaving properly under US occupation. That is also outrageous and idiotic. The US ATTACKED Iraq, devastated their infrastructure, killed hundreds of thousands of their people, created chaos in their society, dictated how they were to govern themselves, and REFUSES TO LEAVE. What do we expect?
Added to that is the fact that we previously attacked them in 1991 and imposed economic sanctions that kept them in financial hardship right up until we attacked them again. Does any sane person think this is a way to make friends and influence people?
Let it be perfectly clear. It is not the Iraqis' fault. It is the fault of the President of the United States, and those who voted for him, those who went along with his actions, and those who did not do enough to stop him.

And that brings us to the blame for the ENABLERS. Many say: Bush lied to us--how could we know? Yes, it is absolutely true that BUSH LIED-- many times. But we are supposed to be a democracy, and we are supposed to be an intelligent nation with a tradition of questioning our leaders and thinking independantly.

I am a private citizen, with no special access to secrets, and I KNEW BUSH WAS LYING. I knew invading Iraq was wrong and pointless. Some in Congress knew it too, but not enough. Not enough American voters were paying attention.

Yes, the administration is to blame. We, the people, were not expecting that much dishonesty nor that much incompetence, but we should have recognized it much sooner. Let us accept our portion of the collective blame, and learn from it. This is our country-- we cannot afford apathy, or unquestioning trust. We cannot afford to ignore corporate greed and its undue influence. And we cannot afford for America to be a bad citizen in the community of nations.

--captain rat

BRINGING HORSES TO WATER

One of the biggest mistakes made by early Communists was making atheism part of their political philosophy, and, once they acheived power, requiring it. Though athiesm is logically correct, attempting to suppress religion was tactically a bad idea.

"Religion is the opiate of the masses", said Karl Marx. In fact, religion is used to support capitalism. It was used to excuse slavery. It has been used to promote the most murderous and dishonest Presidential administration America ever had-- that of George W. Bush. But religion has always been used by governments in power, whatever their philosophy. It is simply reinterpreted to fit the occasion.

Not everyone buys the official interpretation. Religious groups worked to end slavery, and have fought against exploitation of the poor. The religion is incidental. How people treat their fellow humans is determined by their character.

By abolishing religion, the Communists hoped to immunize the working class against the use of it by the capitalists to pacify and propagandize them. But what they overlooked is that you can't free people by force. Each person must abandon irrational beiliefs on his or her own, through indepenent thinking and reasoning.

If you tell people they can't believe something, they will believe it in secret. If you ban a book, they will believe you're hiding something and they will be sure to find it and read it.

In order to promote and institute asystem designed to provide economic equality and justice, you need to get and maintain the support of the people. To make an issue of religion is divisive and is certain to create am opposition totally unrelated to the purpose of the political movement. The main objection to Communism in the minds of most people living outside (and probably inside) of Communist governments is the lack freedom, including religious freedom.

Why should it be necessary for a Communist government to restrict religious and intellectual freedom? If the central purpose of Communism is a fair and just economic system, should that not stand on its own merit? If it works, then it would be embraced and copied elsewhere. If it doesn't, then no amount of repression is going to change that.

Communism has failed in practice because it tried to fight two revolutions at once. The second one, aimed at 'perfecting' human thought, was entirely unnecessary, and doing it by force is impossible. That created an opposition that was far more powerful and lasting than the capitalists, It was the factor that hampered cooperation by citizens, and it was the source of popular opposition from outside, in the rest of the world.

It was unnecessary to attack religion. Although 'conservative' sects, even today, support capitalism, right-wing authoritarianism, and even war, there is nothing inherent in any major religion's basic message to justify this. In fact, religious scriptures tend to favor human brotherhood and compassion for the less fortunate.

One might think that over the years Communist leaders would have realized the mistake. Some probably did, but by then it had developed into an orthodoxy that was as rigid as any religious dogma. Unable to change, it only became more repressive and stifled freedom of thought, alienating most of it's most valuable potential supporters.

I have heard little public discussion about what happened to what was formerly the main opposition to corporate imperialism. Though many were relieved at the presumed end of the Cold War, it left a power vacuum, and a philosophical vacuum as well. As flawed as Communism was in practice, it represented an idealism of theory and purpose. The struggle now seems to be between the powerful and the powerless, with neither side displaying much principled behavior.

What is needed now is not another ideology to fight over, but a cohesive concept to which people of all nations and cultures might come peaceably, without coercion. It must neither use nor try to suppress religion. It must show the way to economic justice while encouraging intellectual freedom, tolerance, and allow all nonharmful action as well.

Any ideas?

JUST SAY NO! TO WAR FUNDING

Conditional funding doesn't work. It get vetoed. Congress can stop the occupation by NOT approving ANY funding for it. Bush and his loyal lap dogs will tell all kinds of lies and call Democrats all kinds of names. We, and Congress, should exprect that by now and be able to ignore it. If Democrats cannot withstand a war of words, then many more Americans will die in a war with bullets and bombs, and they will die because our country has sent them to the wrong place to do the wrong thing.

America has killed more Iraqis than Sadaam did, in much less time. And now the warmongering neocons are threatening to attack Iran as well. Congress needs to get a clue-- the Bush administration lies, and has others lie for them. Their purpose is foment fear. It is not worth listening to. It is pointless to argue. It must just be ignored

We have a President who has broken more US and international laws than any head of state since Hitler and Stalin. Every significant statement he has ever made has either been a lie or just plain wrong. There is no excuse for anyone to listen to Bush or Cheney about anything.

JUST SAY NO.


NOT JUST THE WAR

As most Americans know, the unjustified invasion of Iraq is only one of the Bush administration's many crimes. To have caused the deaths of nearly 4000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis is bad enough, but the President has attacked our Constitution as well, and continues to do so. .

Ending the occupation is very important, but at the same time we need to repair the damages to the Bill of Rights and our system of justice, and prevent any more damage. .

The administration has concocted a plan to place control of domestic spy satellite technology entirely within the Executive branch. All requests for access by Federal, state, and local governments would go an agency within Homeland Security for permission. In order to pretend that rights to privacy are being protected, another agency, also within the Executive branch, is assigned to review the decisions of the first agency. .

Congressional hearings have been held about this plan, and several Democrats have expressed concern and alarm. They have pointed out the obvious, that this plan has no real safeguards, and that any potentially invasive use of the technology must have Judicial oversight: a warrant should be required, based on Probable Cause, just like physical searches and phone taps. Congressional oversight is needed too, to report to the American people how this technology, paid for with tax dollars, is being used. .

There are many legitimate and beneficial uses for spy satellites: assessing assistance needs in natural disasters, forest fire detection, locating lost or stranded people in remote areas, and many scientific and educational applications. We need to make sure that concerns for secrecy about capabilities do not prevent these uses. .

Congress needs to act on this issue in the very near future. We already know that the Bush administration is not to be trusted. Spy satellites are dangerous tools in the hands of those who do not respect human rights or human life.
--captain rat
September 15 2007


Not All Alike

Just electing any Democrat won't be enough. Although they all say they want to end the occupation, not all of them understand that the changes needed are much broader and deeper than that. Not all of them have the integrity and the will to oppose the corporate interests to put the government back into the hands of the American people.

When Barack Obama said he would meet with the leaders of nations like Venezuela, Iran, Syria, Cuba, and North Korea, he showed that he understands the need and value of communication and diplomacy, and that he knows that such countries do not need to be considered enemies merely because they disagree with US policy, nor because they object to our past and present attempts to control the rest of the world.

Hillary Clinton, when she disagreed on this issue, showed that she just doesn't get it, or that she intends to go along with the corporate interests, putting profit ahead of principles.

The next President needs to realize that if we are to have a 'War on Terror', then the United States of America needs to stop terrorizing. We need to stop the intimidation, stop undermining foreign governments, promoting coups against their leaders, supporting repressive dictators, and perpetrating economic injustice. What especially angers people in areas victimized by the US is that we claim to stand for freedom and justice for all, but we often do the opposite.

A President should know that being the most powerful nation on Earth does not mean we have to push other nations around. It does mean we can lead by positive example, and that we should be able to retain all of our Constitutional rights without fear.

We are not a nation of cowards. Time after time, whenever there is an emergency, Americans rise to the occasion, risking their own lives to save others. Yet Bush repeatedly tells us that we should be so afraid of terrorists that we should give up our freedom and privacy; that we should allow our government to imprison without trial and torture human beings, people who are only suspects; people who are not convicted of any crime.

It is important to know that the invasion of Iraq was not just a tactical error, not just badly done, but that it was fundamentally wrong, and absolutely inexcusable. It was allowed because enough of Congress believed the lies our President told. Even if the lies had been truth, it was wrong because it was an unprovoked attack, contrary to any sense of justice and fairness. The President sent American servicemen and women to kill and die, not for the honorable purpose of defending our country, not even to defend an ally from being attacked, but for the illegitimate purpose of furthering Neoconservative goals of world domination.

Those who would preside should know their history well. They should be teachers as well as administrators, revealing the truth to the people, not trying to cover it up. There is a good reason why attempting to hide a mistake is considered worse than the mistake itself. If we continue to pretend that we never acted wrongly in the past, we will continue to do harm in the future.

America does not need a cheerleader or a salesman. We need to know what is wrong, and then we need to fix it. We need a leader who follows principles, law, and the Constitution, not one who looks for a way around them.

--Captain Rat 8/08/2007

FOURTH TO THE UNKNOWN

It was a quiet 4th of July in Glendale Arizona, and that is unusual. True, it was a Wednesday, and recently celebrants have been discouraged from firing guns into the air, but that has never stopped a multiplicity of joyful explosions before.
It is not that Americans don't remember and revere the meaning of Independence Day, and the freedom and justice for which our founding fathers fought. Rather, I think, more and more we are beginning to realize that freedom and jusice in America are part of history, but no longer part of current reality.
The ideas we have always celebrated, that all men are created equal, that we formed a government of laws, not of men, that our rights are inalienable, and that if we fight, it is for a just and honorable cause, now bring sad memories of times past when we could believe they were true.

In the last 6 years we have seen and heard a few too many things. We've seen our freedom, our rights, our system of justice chipped away, or twisted beyond recognition. People have been held without trials and tortured, Many of them turned out to be innocent. We've seen our government attack, defeat, and occupy a foreign nation for no good reason, killing hundreds of thousands of their citizens and thousands of our own soldiers. We've heard our President and other tell increasingly obvious lies, break laws, and violate the Constitution, without suffering consequences. We've seen a President, who believes in no mercy for ordinary people, commute the sentence of a perjurer who was formerly a part of his administration.

That simple act, minor among his many transgressions, is perhaps symbolic of much more. It shows contempt for justice and for the people.
Government of the people, by the people, and for the people? No, the people have lost control. The will of the people is being ignored.

Yes, we elected new Congresspersons, and many of them are doing what they can. And of course in the next election we can elect even more, and a new President. But there are two problems with that. First, a lot more damage can be done between now and the next election. And second, we don't know yet if we can elect a President that will make a real difference.

Not only do we need to end the occupation of Iraq, stop our belligerant foreign policy, and restore the Constitution and respect for human rights, but we must also eliminate the means by which control has been taken away from the voters: secrecy.
Nothing a government of the people does should be secret from the people. And when there are secret operations they must have secret funding. This need has grown far beyond the unspecified allocations by Congress for the agencies involved. Much of that has been obtained from involvement in illegal drugs and weapons smuggling. In addition, one must wonder about the extent of corporate financing, since many of the covert operations are done for corporate benefit, and the open conflicts that often result are a boon for military weapons and equipment manufacturers.

While there is a need for intelligence agencies, their purpose must be only to uncover secrets and provide accurate information, which the people have the right to know. When they covertly interfere in foreign affairs, they become a tool too dangerous for a free and democratic nation, a tool that can be used without the people's knowledge for anything and by anyone who can fund them.

Secrecy is the key that allows those with money to corrupt democratic government and use its agencies for their own ends, with little possibility of being discovered until years later, if at all. Without official secrecy, money can still corrupt, but these crimes are much easier to investigate, stop, and bring to justice.

I hope we can elect a President, and more members of Congress, that understand the need for real changes.

PRETENDING NOT TO NOTICE

If millions of Americans are aware of the incessant, insidious lies about the Iraq occupation and mideast foreign policy coming from George W. Bush's mouth, then most Democratic Congressmen must at least have a clue. Many of the more aware and idealistic of them must be furious, yet they speak only of the most obvious offenses in public. The rest, for the time being, they are pretending not to notice.

The world watched the news of the results of the historic diplomatic meeting with Iran. Though no one expected real diplomacy from the American delegation, the totally insulting and offensive approach of our so-called diplomats was still shocking. One does not promote better relations with a sovereign nation by scolding their leaders like children, nor by issuing accusations and orders. That was a blatant provocation

Most of us know about how many American lives have been lost in this occupation. But how often do we think about how many Iraqis have been killed? Estimates range from 65,000 to 650,000. Do we ignore them because they're Iraqi? We're killing them, and because we're there, some of them are killing each other. Are they our enemy? We supposedly invaded to depose Sadaam, and to bring democracy to Iraq. We've ruined their lives and caused the deaths of large numbers of their friends and relatives, Should we be surprised they resent us and want us to leave? How many more of them do we need to kill?

Naturally we think about our own tragedies first, but the Iraqis didn't ask us to invade, nor to purposely create chaos and civil war in their country. If it was another country doing this, what would we think of them? But, it's OUR government. Should we pretend not to notice?

FOCUS

When you're drowning in a sea of words, you have to get your head above them and concentrate on the facts.
The appropriations bill with withdrawal timelines is a worthy bill, which, of course, Bush has promised to veto. What we fail to understand is that HIS VETO DOES NOT MATTER. Congress, with a simple majority in the House, can say, Take it or leave it- if you want funding, accept and follow the timelines for withdrawal. Otherwise, there will be no funding. The ball is in your court!

This is no time to back down. As it is, the timelines are a compromise. There is no reason to stay in Iraq a minute longer than it takes to move the troops and equipment out.

We are not fighting a war there. We are occupying a country that we defeated for no good reason, and whose people do not want us there. That is not hard to understand. The lies and obfuscation from Bush and other Republicans do not change that.

Beware the Adversarial Mindset

Not just the neocons, who enthusiastically seek excuses to attack smaller countries, but Democrats as well can be vulnerable to the Cold War mentality that sets up scenarios wherein the US must oppose and/or control other countries. There is a mounting propoganda campaign designed to convince Congress and the people that Iran should be punished or even attacked because it is refining nuclear fuel.

The first question must be, What gives us or anyone the right to order Iran what to do inside its borders? The second question is How much are our attempts to bully Iran contributing to their determination to defy us?

Warmongers will point to the fact that the UN passed sanctions against Iran over the nuclear issue. The UN has allowed itself to be manipulated into that position. Since the Bush administration simply ignored the UN's wishes regarding Iraq, which hurt its credibility, this time members decided to go along, since they can't control what Bush does anyway. However, Russia has already decided to partly ignore the sanction rules, and it's unlikely that Iran will give in anyway. Sanctions will lead to shortages and hunger for the people of Iran, and they will know the US is to blame.

There is no logic to the position of trying to stop Iran's nuclear program, whether they intend to develop weapons or not. We did not stop India or Pakistan from developing theirs. We certainly aren't offering to give up ours. We are not only trying to intimidate a soveriegn nation, we are insulting it, deeming it unable to handle an 'adult' weapon responsibly. Is it any wonder they defy us?

Iran's government may have its faults, and no doubt we would be more comfortable if they eschewed nuclear power, but belligerence will only make the situation worse, not better. If we are to make the world freer and more humane, we need to learn the value of extending respect and friendship to other countries

Congress is struggling to end the Iraq occupation, and if it stands firm with withdrawal timelines, it will succeed, but we must also guard against attempts to force yet another, even more disastrous war.
~~captain rat 4/11/2007

Failing to Learn

The Bush administration has adopted the tendency to fail to learn from history and made it a firm policy. Perhaps you may remember that Osama Bin Laden got his start when the US funded jihadists to combat the USSR in Afghanistan. Well, now Bush and company are supporting Abd el Malik Regi a leader of Jundullah, an organization closely associated with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, to carry out guerrilla attacks in Iran in an attempt to destabilize its government.

Jundullah, which means 'Army of God', has been implicated in a plot to attack the US Embassy in Karachi, and has carried out other anti-US attacks in Pakistan, where he is based. His funding comes indirectly, of course. Perhaps the new method of dealing with terrorists is not to fight them but to hire them to attack others we don't like. Actually, it is not new, but it is now a little clearer what Bush's position is: we are not fighting terrorists in general, we are only opposing the ones we don't find useful, and which ones are which may change without notice.

The CIA and JFK
Sometimes it takes a while to learn what history really is. Information about the JFK assassination that happened when I was in high school is only now beginning to come out with deaths of some of the spies involved. CIA operatives like E. Howard Hunt, Cord Meyer, David Atlee Phillips, William Harvey, Frank Sturgis, David Morales, and Antonio Veciana, while it may never be proved, were part of the plot, or knew of it in advance. The motive? First, they believed that Kennedy was going to try to normalize relations with Cuba. Second, Kennedy had an affair with Cord Meyer's wife.

--captain rat April 9, 2007

History Happening Now

As valuable as the study of the past is in understanding the present, it is also important to pay attention while history is being made.

For one thing, some of the events unfolding are so incredible that if you only read about them later, you'd hardly believe it. For example, regarding the current investigation into the Bush administration's attempt to subvert justice by firing US Attorneys, its officials have offered to answer questions by Congress as long as they don't have to tell the truth. Yes, after 6 years of telling endless lies to the American people, Bush and his co-conspirators have now announced their INTENTION to lie.

Such a proposal is so outrageous that some may be thinking that it cannot possibly mean what it clearly says. But it does. They don't want to testify under oath because they believe they cannot afford to tell the truth.

Here we have an matter that is serious, but relatively a side-issue, compared with election fraud, falsifying reasons for a war, torture and other civil rights violations, etc. But it seems the Bush administration thinks it is serious enough to refuse to tell the truth. Or, perhaps it has all been planned as a distraction.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Bush administration is incompetent in making foreign policy and in being Commander in Chief. He is now in the position of opposing the will of the American people-- not just ignoring it, but having been told what he must do, still says he will do the opposite.

The guidelines in the approriations bill are a moderate comprimise, far more moderate than most of us would have chosen. If he vetoes it as he has threatened, then he gets no funding. He is threatening to reappropriate military funds himself in defiance of Congress and the Constitution. He may very well end up giving Congress no choice but to impeach him.

At the end of a recent speech, Bush clearly characterized Muslim nation as a threat to THE CIVILIZED WORLD. He weakly tried to rephrase that to 'The Developed World'. Bush's attitude is obvious. Is it any wonder why he cannot negotiate diplomatically?

Bush continues to obfuscate with platitudes and the usual false phrases. He speaks of 'ENEMIES'...In case it isn't clear by now to everyone, we have CREATED our enemies. When we become an enemy, those who resist our invasions, our meddling, our economic warfare, covert support for assassinations, coups, and dictators, those people are called our enemies.

Once we realize that, it becomes apparant that sometimes the best way to eliminate an enemy is to stop fighting him. Get out of his country. Show him respect. Leave him alone.

Robert Gates: Anything But the Truth

Robert Gates has a long history of twisting intelligence to fit an agenda. When he speaks of Iran, (or anything else) count on misrepresentation or outright lies.

Gates began his CIA career in 1966. His speciality has been that of an intelligence analyst, not an operative. His reputation has been of one who would edit the information provided to him so that it serves the agenda of his superiors. By emphasizing some facts and omitting others, he could insure that the desired conclusions were drawn. He learned this dubious skill well while working under CIA director William Casey.

This has not always been standard operating proceedure in the CIA. Most intelligence professionals are far more dedicated to accuracy and truth. However, those who took the 'tell the boss what he wants to hear' approach tended to get the promotions.

Under Casey and Gates' leadership, the fall of the Soviet Union actually seemed to come as a surprise because he consistently spun intelligence to portray the USSR as a stronger threat than it was. When Reagan accused the Russians of encouraging violent terrorist acts, Gates obediently supressed information that they actually discouraged such behavior as counterproductive.

Gates participated in secret contacts with Iranian officials in 1980 to DELAY release of the 52 hostages then held in Iran, to benefit Reagan's political campaign. Once elected. Reagan used Israel to transfer arms to Iran to fulfill his end of the bargain.

Gates was also involved in arranging arms sales to Iraq, in accordance with Reagan's tactic of keeping both sides even to prolong the Iran-Iraq war.

Also fully aware of the Iran-Contra deal, he has managed to cover his tracks well enough so that many of his activities could not be proved, despite convincing evidence.

There are real and potentially lasting dangers to the tactic of letting bias and ideology determine the 'facts'.

In 1986 the USSR was in much the same position in Afghanistan that we are now in Iraq, and Gorbachev was trying to find a way to end their occupation. He propsed to Reagan an agreement to pull Soviet troops out in exchange for the US to stop sending arms to the rebels. Reagan, determined to make the Russians look bad, refused.

So Gorbachev escalated instead. Among other events this led to a legendary battle between 200 Soviet troops and 50 followers of Osama Bin Ladin. To the simpleminded Reagan, anyone who fought communists had to be our friend. He ignored the warnings of the Russians against the dangers of extreme Islamic fundamentalism.

So Reagan, through the CIA, provided Afghan Islamists with billions of dollars in military aid. Recruits picked by Bin Ladin were flown to the US for CIA training in terrorist tactics.

Much ado is being made about alleged Iranian intentions to develop nuclear weapons. However, when Pakistan was becoming a nuclear power, we pointedly looked the other way, despite the fact that the Pakistanis also assisted North Korea and Libya in their weapons development as well.

It is important to realize that issues and accusations on the international level are no more than cardboard background props for the power plays performed to determine the dominance of one nation or another. What is a non-negotiable demand in one instance may be a minor issue in another, regardless of the objective relevance, or lack of it.

Though it is much like a game to the powerful elite, the effects on the game-pieces on the board-- the soldiers and civilians of the world, are all too real.

Both students and teachers of history should avoid idealizing any leader of the past. Each of them should be credited with his or her achievments, but these should not excuse their mistakes and wrongdoings. The fact that the nation managed to survive and recover from them does not mean we should emulate them.

And merely because the international politics of force, intimidation, bluff, and adversarial hostility has not yet destroyed the world, does not mean it's a good thing.

The people of America need to take the lead in instituting a new style of foreign policy, one of openness and honesty, with priorities of peace and justice for all. We must extend respect and cooperation in order to receive it.

It will do little good to change Presidents unless we carefully select one who will take such an approach, one with the courage and determination to maintain it.

THE POWER OF WORDS

The truth will set us free. We'd like to think so, anyway. But we must not underestimate the power of twisted words and phrases that confuse debate and confound thought. The purveyors of war and authoritarianism are adept at deceptive semantics. To expose the trickery, we, too, must become cunning linguists.

Nothing captures the essence of neocon tactics as well as Orwell's 1984. If you have not read it, do. If it has been a while, re-read it.

It is amazing to actually see a simple and straightforward word like WAR change its meaning. It is emotionally painful to see a word like patriot twisted into meaning someone so fearful of attack as to be willing relinquish liberty. One of the favorite phrases used to justify torture and other human rights violations is They don't play by the rules. OF COURSE they don't play by the rules. No criminal of any sort plays by the rules. That's why we call them criminals!

The rules exist, not as a favor to those guilty of a crime, but to PROTECT THE INNOCENT. We have seen what happens when the government fails to follow the rules. When we hear a President or any politician trying to make us forget why the rules, also known as the Constitution, exist, we should become alarmed. When a President lies openly and deceives us with words or by acting in secret, we should become angry, especially when the result is an eroding of our freedom and thousands of needless deaths.

Adolph Hitler knew that a lie, repeated often enough and loudly enough, could be accepted as truth. Hitler transformed a democracy into the most deadly and destructive dictatorship that had ever existed. He achieved the power to do that by using words.

We need to remember and understand that history, and to avoid the assumption that it can't happen here. We also need to know and understand more recent history to know the motivation of those who are portrayed as our enemies. Meeting their hostility with more intimidation and aggression will only escalate the conflict. The only long-term solution is to recognize what of our policies, whether planned or blundered, have angered nations and people enough to want to stand up to or attack a far more powerful entity, and to correct our past and present errors. To treat other nations and other people as fairly, humanely, justly, and respectfully as we ourselves would want to be treated is not an act of weakness. It would not be done because we are afraid of them, but because it is the right thing to do.

We must rid our own government of the influence of the greedy exploitative corporate interests as well as the authoritarians driven by the love of power.

The President has said we can't afford to fail in Iraq. That, of course, is a lie on more than one level. If transforming a stable country into a chaotic and violent one is not a failure, then what is? The failure began with the invasion and continued even while the predictably easy military victory was carried out.

It should be noted, of course, that a weakened Iraq and subsequently Iran, was the unproclaimed purpose of the neocons, as influenced by the PNAC world view.

What we, the people, cannot afford is to fail to be vigilant and informed about what our government is doing both at home and abroad.

--captain rat Jan 18, 2007

History: Know It and Use It

It would seem obvious that those who seek to be part of government should be avid students of history in order to be able to recognize and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. It is equally obvious that many of them are not.

That makes it even more important that we, the voting public, learn and remember history, especially that of the last 20 to 30 years. Too many, even after living through it, seem to have forgotten, or were unaware of the events as they were happening. We must also remember that, even though we see ourselves as fully informed by a free press, many end up with an incomplete and one-sided view of what happened. We cannot expect to be fed all the news, or all sides of the stories,by the corporate-controlled media.

We no longer have an excuse for ignorance. Though one would once have to go to libraries and bookstores to do research, history and current events are now instantly available on the internet.

We now have Bob Gates as Secretary of Defense. It would be optimistic to expect Gates, or any Bush appointee, to take an especially enlightened approach to Iraq.

GATES, IRAN, AND NICARAGUA

Gates, as CIA deputy director for intelligence (1982-86), was involved in the outrageous Iran-Contra plot during the Reagan administration. Reagan, of course, was ultimately responsible, but Poindexter, North, and Gates were co-conspirators. The Contras were CIA-assisted guerrillas trying to overthrow a democratically elected government in Nicaragua. Congress cut off the money for that offensive project, but Reagan then proceeded to secretly fund it by selling arms to Iran at inflated prices, and by large-scale drug-smuggling operations.

For those who wonder why some foreign leaders and informed Americans say that the US is guilty of State Terrorism, this operation was one of the reasons.

Not only did the US fund the Contras, who attacked villages, health clinics, and noncombatants as well as bridges and power generators, but CIA operatives directly committed sabotage by mining harbors and burning oil tanks, and advocated assassination of selected police officials, judges, and tax collectors.

In 1986 Nicaragua brought the matter to the International Court of Justice, which found the US guilty of unlawful use of force, and ordered billions of dollars in reparations. The US ignored the court.

Of course, the CIA does not call actions they do or sponsor 'terrorism' They call them 'PSYOPS' (psychological operations) in a 'UWOA' (unconventional warfare area)

CUBA

Cuba has also been the victim of a long history of terrorist acts funded and encouraged by the US, including the bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people, and a series of bomb attacks on nightclubs and other tourist spots designed to harm Cuba's important tourism industry. The Cuban-American terrorist organizations are given training and funded through such agencies as National Endowment for Democracy and the US International Development Agency as well as the CIA.

SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS

Since 1946 the US has operated a training center for foreign nationals. Originally located in Panama, called the Latin American Training School, Ground Division, it was moved to Ft. Benning, Georgia in 1984 and renamed School of the Americas. It students mainly come from Latin American countries and are trained in counterinsurgency tactics. Its students, according to a UN Commission report, have become some of the most brutal and deadly violators of human rights in Central and South America. In 2001 it was renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or WHISC, and due to negative publicity it was ordered to offer courses in human rights and democracy, which are largely ignored. So far, Congress has been unable to abolish this center.

IRAN

Especially relevant to the Middle East situation is the 1953 US and British-sponsored overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran, Operation Ajax, which installed the Shah. The motivation was to prevent nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, later renamed British Petroleum.

That bit of history is unmentioned by those who professed confusion and outrage when 63 Americans were taken hostage after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. We, along with the British, had held their entire country hostage for 26 years. They held some Americans for about 15 months, partly because they suspected we intended to again crush their revolution as we did in 1953.

The primary point in the agreement to release the hostages was a US pledge to never again interfere in Iran's internal affairs. Obviously, Bush does not feel obliged to keep that pledge.

Imagine how the Iranians, the Cubans, the Nicaraguans, and the people of several other countries we have likewise manipulated feel when an American President has the nerve to condemn terrorism.

Perhaps we can imagine, because by now our minds have been fully boggled by the absurdity of the endless string of lies that same President has told us, the American people.

Regarding Gates, he really doesn't matter. If he's up to his old tricks, or even if he's learned from his own past mistakes, it all needs to stop. It is up to the new Congress to make it stop, by using every tool at its disposal, including cutting off funds and impeachment, if necessary.

CREDIBILITY

When a publication, a journalist, or an individual is said to have credibility, it refers to trustworthiness; a reputation for telling the truth. But too often in foreign relations, politicians use the word 'credibility' to mean inspiring fear in other countries that we will wield our military or economic might to impose our will upon them.

This is not how most of us seek to live our personal lives, or conduct our businesses, or run our organizations or local governments. We know that honesty, integrity, and treating others with respect and courtesy will help positively influence others, leading to cooperation in which everyone benefits. In America, we the people ARE the government. At least, we're supposed to be. Do we want our government representing us to the world in ways that we would consider criminal and antisocial in one another? We may love our country for many reasons, but how can we be truly proud of it if it behaves no better than a teenaged street gang? And it's not just about pride. If we can't be trusted, if we disrespect smaller nations, intimidate them, steal from them, and even invade them, what kind of treatment-- what kind of respect, will we get in return? The kind we are getting now. We are feared, but also despised, and resented. There is no real, lasting security in that. And there is no hope for true peace.

IRAQ: THE FIRST STEP

Rather than pretend that we can now have any positive effect on the chaos in Iraq, what we need to do is first issue a complete and unreserved apology for the invasion of Iraq and for the subsequent disastrous occupation. Then, we should announce our withdrawal at all possible speed, acknowledging that our presence is only contributing to the discord and violence. We should offer reparations in the form of money and material to help rebuild the still-unfinished infrastructure.

There is no way to know for sure what effect our withdrawal will have on the level of violence. We should consider: [1] How much violence do we think we're preventing by being there? [2] How much are we causing by being there? This would include not only that of the resistance against us and the government we have created there, but that between sects or other factions motivated by suspicion that the other side is cooperating with us. As long as US troops are in Iraq, most Iraqis will have the feeling that they are not really in control; that theirs is a defeated nation. We have never experienced that; we can only try to imagine it.

Once we have disengaged it is more likely that the UN and perhaps other Muslim nations will offer assistance, to the extent that they can do so without becoming involved in conflicts.

WINNING? LOSING?

Those who speak in terms of winning and losing miss the point entirely. We defeated Saddam's Iraq militarily, twice, easily. But you don't WIN an occupation. When the people of a country want self-determination, the only right thing to do is to leave and let them do it. The only alternatives are to destroy them entirely, or fight their resistance forever.

TRAINING?

There is also much talk of training Iraq's army and police. What is meant by 'training'? It would appear that skill in using weapons is not the issue. The 'problem' is that they are not doing what we want them to do. We are asking them for loyalty and obedience to a government they may or may not accept as legitimate, which makes them targets of a variety of factions, one or more of which may include their friends and families. Training, then, means indoctrination into a way of thinking that is advocated by their American conquerors, and which will increase the danger that they face. It should be no surprise that this is not going well.

OUT NOW!

While the Baker report is valuable in its assessment of failed policies and in advocating the use of genuine diplomacy, it is wrong in believing that any benefit could come from further US involvement in Iraq.

THE ARIZ. ZONE

Arizona is certainly not in the vanguard of supporters of freedom and social justice, as some of the results below will attest, but there is some hope for improvement. After all, it is growing fast, and most of those who are moving here are at least intelligent enough to leave a cold place and come to a warm one. No longer is the majority composed of mostly ranchers and retirees.

Arizonans have a political legacy of confused conservatism derived partially from reverence for Barry Goldwater, while failing to that Goldwater himself was much more a libertarian than a Republican, a man who opposed both authoritarianism and dishonesty, and partially from a desert mentality that translates a sense of scarcity (which is psychological, not based in reality) into defensive and mean-spirited selfishness.

As a result, funding for education, health care and social welfare is inadequete, though plenty of money can be found for police departments and sports facilities. Our Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano, who won easily her second term, is in a constant struggle with a Republican legislature as she tries to improve schools. We need new legislators. The growing population should have the power to elect them. In addition, businesses who require educated workers seek to locate in well-educated states, a fact which provides an economic motivation to those who are unmoved by humanitarianism.

Perhaps it is because of many years of underfunded schools that so many voters seem not to understand the principles of American liberty and justice, evidenced by the votes regarding immigrant workers' right to bail and to equality in civil suits. There seems to be a perception that the Constitution protects only the rights of the priveleged, not all human beings. With that point of view it is easy for a nonsmoker to deny smokers' rights, or for an English-speaker to refuse translation to a Spanish-speaker.

At least Arizonans have a solid grasp on one of the Bill of Rights, the Second Ammendment. The right to bear arms is solidly supported here, as it should be.

Though the focus now is rightly on national politics and its international effects, it would behoove us to prod our state into the twenty-first century as well.

The AZ Proposition Results

The numbers are percentages of the vote, slightly rounded. The * indicates a good result.

100 Passed 78 to 22 Denial of bail to aliens accused of felonies
101 Passed* 51 to 49 Property tax increase limitation
102 Passed 74 to 26 No punitive damages awarded to aliens in civil suits
103 Passed 74 to 26 Use of English only in official actions
104 Passed* 59 to 41 Allow more municipal debt in public projects
105 Failed 71.5 to 28.5 State land conservation plan 1
106 Failed 51 to 49 State land conservation plan 2
107 Failed* 52 to 48 Prohibit recognition of any civil union outside marriage.
200 Failed* 67 to 33 Automatic lottery entry for voting.
201 Passed 55 to 45 Extreme statewide smoking ban
202 Passed* 65 to 35 Minimum wage $6.75 per hour
203 Passed 53 to 47 Cigarette tax 80 (or .8) cents per pack
204 Passed* 62 to 38 Humane treatment for pigs and calves.
205 Failed* 71 to 29 Voting by mail only.
206 Failed 57.5 to 42.5 Moderate statewide smoking ban
207 Passed* 65 to 35 Protection from eminent domain and zoning misuse
300 Passed 71.5 to 28.5 Deny adult education and child care to aliens
301 Passed 58 to 42 Deny probation for possession of speed.
302 Failed* 52 to 48 Raise in pay for legislators.

ELECTION 2006 in ARIZONA

Arizona voters can do a great favor to the nation by replacing Senator Jon Kyl. He has long been one of those senators you never notice, except for his odd surname, but he has been quietly been functioning as a Bush rubber stamp, backing the Iraq disaster.

He also confessed (actually, bragged) in one of his own campaign ads that he actually HELPED WRITE parts of the "PATRIOT" Act, one of the most heinous attacks on the Bill of Rights in American history. We in Arizona, both liberal and conservative, normally take our liberty very seriously. Anyone who values freedom and the Constitution should be offended by Jon Kyl, who also opposes women's reproductive rights.

We must realize that neoconservative is not at all the same as conservative. The authoritarianism, the military aggression, the irresponsible spending, the dishonesty, and the disrespect for the Constitution are not conservative qualities by any definition.

Jim Pederson seems both intelligent and responsible, and should prove to be a great improvement as an Arizona senator.

In Arizona and throughout the nation we need to defeat every Bush supporter we can. At stake is American Constitutional freedom and peace throughout the world. Bush has said 'I am the DECIDER', but when it comes to human lives and human rights, he is the DESTROYER.

19 ARIZONA PROPOSITIONS
100 NO to denying the right to bail to undocumented immigrants.
101 YES to limits on property tax increases.
102 NO to denying equal rights in civil suits to undocumented immigrants.
103 NO to discrimination against non-English speaking Americans.
104 YES to allowing cities to borrow a little more money for improvements.
105 NO to the weak version of state land conservation.
106 YES to the better conservation plan.
107 NO to discriminating against gays.
200 NO to the voter lottery.
201 NO to violating the freedom of smokers.
202 YES to the minimum wage.
203 NO to 80 cents per pack cigarette tax.
204 YES to protecting pigs and calves from abusive treatment.
205 NO to voting by mail only. Too insecure.
206 YES to the more reasonable smoking law.
207 YES to protection from eminent domain and zoning abuse.
300 NO to denying undocumented immigrants language education and child care.
301 NO to denying probation to nonviolent drug users using speed.
302 NO to pay raises for AZ legislators.

See my 360 Blog for details on these.

PATRIOTISM

It seems that many Americans want to be patriotic, but some of them have forgotten what patriotism means. It has been quite a few years since the American Revolution, after all. Over the years, manipulative politicians have tried to redefine it for their own purposes, so the confusion may be understandable.

The original patriots were not fighting for an established nation. They were fighting for ideas, like freedom and independance. In the years after they won, the set about building a government that could preserve the liberty for which they had fought.

What they achieved was a nation to be truly proud of, not because it was big and rich and powerful-- it was none of those things then-- but because it had a Constitution that would transcend the era they lived in, to preserve and expand freedom for future generations.

The nation was not created to keep other people out or to enforce everyone in it to conform. The Constitution and its Bill of Rights sought to guarantee that no religion could be imposed on the people, and that each person would have the right to speak, write, and think freely without fear.

So when I hear people say that patriotism depends on what foreigners we hate, what language we speak, or what religion we accept, I am deeply saddened. When I hear it said that to be patriotic, I must give up the liberty that the founding fathers tried to ensure, and that I should support foreign invasions to impose our government's will on other nations, I know something is very, very wrong.

Those who won the Revolution and wrote the Constitution knew that if you want to have freedom, you have to extend freedom to all. The liberty we enjoy requires tolerance for others, whether he happen to like them or not.

They also knew that the greatest danger to freedom was not from other nations, but from within, from power-hungry politicians who would try to mislead the people and, to control them, gradually take away their rights.

It is true that, while we have no official religion, Christianity has had considerable influence on America; some positive and some negative. It does have some very good things to say about how we should treat one another.

But it is no surprise that those who use religion to promote hate and prejudice seem to overlook all those good ideas. They also forget that the religious freedom we all enjoy depends on mutual tolerance. Trying to force beliefs on others only results in discord and less freedom for all.

It is frustrating to see many people being distracted from the real problems we face by such minor issues as who can come to America and work, what language they speak.

We should be concentrating on the attack on our Constitution by the so-called neoconservatives in Washington. We should be outraged that they have named the 'Patriot' Act a set of laws that is the most unpatriotic legislation in recent history.

Those who worry about the cost of medical care and education for families of immigrant farmworkers should consider the 300 billion dollars spent so far to invade and occupy Iraq, an action that was clearly unneeded and harmful to the US as well as Iraq.

Priorities anyone?

--Captain Rat 10/08/2006

LEAVE IRAN ALONE

For some time there has been suspicion expressed that the Bush administration may be planning an attack on Iran. The most compelling evidence that suggests this is the propaganda emanating from Bush himself, accusing Iran of intending to build nuclear weapons, and of supplying Hezbollah with weapons. This reminds one very much of the false accusations toward Iraq before invading it.

Even if all the accusations were true, military action would be an extremely bad idea, tactically as well as philosophically. As we have seen before, though, that doesn't mean Bush and his cohorts would not try it.

It appears that the accusations may be false or greatly exaggerated. This should come as no surprise, given Bush's record of lies. Iran's president has stated that his country is working toward peaceful nuclear power, and that it does not want nuclear weapons. There is no real evidence to the contrary.

Regarding arming terrorists, it is important to determine if Iran's government has done this, or whether nongovernmental groups within Iran might have. We have seen that the governments of Lebanon, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia are not in full control of militant Muslim groups within their borders. If the US would drop the bogus nuclear issue and attempt to normalize dimplomacy with Iran, it is possible that we could work toward control of any such activity, which may well be in Iran's interests as well as ours.

The president of Iran does have a strong bias toward the Palestinians, but has not actually threatened to intervene. It is pointless to threaten and try to intimidate such a country for its views; we are only worsening our relations with Iran and other Muslim nations.

Especially, we must beware of more Bush administration deceptions designed to gained support for yet another war.

LESSONS OF THE AFTERMATH

The important lessons we have learned in the last 5 years did not come on September 11, 2001, but from what has happened afterward. They were not easy to learn, nor were they pleasant.

It is not truly surprising that those who consider themselves our enemies would attack us, though the attack itself may have been unexpected. What brings real shock and dismay is the fact that our elected leader has used that attack, and the fear and anger it caused, to manipulate us into supporting and allowing him to pursue his own agenda.

The Bush agenda, and that of his fellow neoconservatives, has little to do with protecting us from terrorists. In fact, terrorism works to his advantage, to maintain our fear and anger and appeal to our worst instincts. Their real goal is to turn America into an empire; to use our superior military power to subjugate the rest of the world.

They envision a modern version of the Roman Empire, or the British Empire, with unchallenged control of world resources. It is the ultimate merger of corporate economic power and military/political power.

We have heard the propaganda about bringing democracy to the Middle East. The purpose of that tactic is not to improve the lives of the people, but to create governments that are weaker, more divided and more vulnerable to our economic control.

As for American democracy, they seem to believe it would only get in their way. Since America would always have enemies, we would continue giving up our rights to protect our security.

It is interesting that Bush is using the word fascist to apply to Muslim extremists. Perhaps even ironic.

--captain rat 9/12/2006

War and Peace

Learning nothing from the disastrous failure of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Bush Administration continues to attempt to control the world through force and the threat of force. There are those who believe that because the United States has a far superior military capability that it should use it to make the rest of the world behave in accordance with American interests.

The problems with that approach have become increasingly obvious. While we may easily defeat another nation, it is not so easy to defeat the people. When we wage an offensive war without provocation, as we did in Iraq, we make bitter enemies of those whose countrymen we kill. When we threaten a foreign government, the response will be defiance. Meanwhile we lose the respect of much of the rest of the world. European and other nations who have had multiple wars fought on their soil appreciate the value of peace, and of using genuine diplomacy to engender and preserve peaceful relations.

America's excessive use of force did not begin with the current President, though his actions have been extreme. Our government has supported and encouraged military actions by revolutionaries, counter-revolutionaries, and despotic governments all over the world. The effect of these interventions, in addition to the death and destruction they usually cause, is usually detrimental to the people involved, The US aim has been to remove obstacles to our economic exploitation of the region.

Though we claim to believe in liberty and justice, our government has often sown authoritarianism and economic oppression abroad. We must understand this in order to understand the motives of some of those who would attack us. That is not to say we should condone or excuse their violence, any more than we should condone the misdirected and unnecessary violence of the Bush administration. But, we would be foolish to pretend that we don't know why our country is resented, feared, and hated by millions of people.

The more we kill, destroy, and intimidate, the more enemies we create. If we want to stop terrorist attacks against us, we must cease using offensive military force and threats of force, directly or by proxy against other nations and people. We must stop using our economic power offensively to meddle in other nations' internal affairs.

--captain rat
August 2006


JULY 4, 2006

Bushist propagandists like to accuse those who oppose needless harmful wars and the greedy, power-seeking politicians who wage them, of being unpatriotic.

Such accusations are not only untrue, they pervert the very meaning of the word patriot. It is no wonder that many of us may think, If patriotism means supporting a government no matter what it does wrong, then we don't want any!

By simply reading a few of the words of the original American patriots, we can easily see what patriotism really means:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

Note the use of the word ALL. These patriots proclaimed an ideal that we are still struggling to reach 230 years later. Far from advocating blind loyalty to a flag, a set of borders, or a head of state, they define government as legitimate only so long as the people agree to it.

It follows from that that the people must be free to know what their government does, free to debate its rightness, free to protest its wrong actions, and have the power to change it. Those who defend and exersize these freedoms are the true patriots, not those who wave flags, suppress minorities, and ignore despotism and corruption in our politicians.


MORE BUSH LIES

As the American people and many of their more enlightened Congresspersons call for an Iraq withdrawal date, Bush and his minions claim that would be abandoning the Iraqi 'democracy' we have created. What is not said is that, when Bush visited Iraq, the Iraq's Vice President ASKED Bush for a timetable of withdrawal, which, of course Bush refused to give. The Iraqi government knows that it is US PRESENCE in Iraq that is causing most of the violence, and it will not likely cease until we leave.

--captain rat
AFTER BUSH, WHAT?

CARTOON ABSURDITY

AND IT COULD GET WORSE
What do we not yet know about Bush Administration crime?

PRESIDENTIAL CRIME
And how to prevent it

FIRING FREEDOM
Another dictatorial employer wants to control workers' lives after hours! [January 2006 update]

NEW ORLEANS
BUSH'S INCOMPETENCE AND POOR PRIORITIES .

KAMINSKI: NO FRIEND TO PEACE
John Kaminski's essays may seem at first to promote peace and justice, but his hatemongering theories about a Zionist conspiracy twist the truth and negate his contribution.

WHO'S TO BLAME?
We're in a hell of a mess. Whose fault is it?

THE POPE AND HUNTER S. THOMPSON
Two Memorials...Which man will be missed more?

THE BRAIN IN SPAIN
Is mainly sane. The people of Spain spoke, and wisely withdrew from Iraq.

SMOKERS GET BURNED
How the government uses those unfair taxes on tobacco

MORE ON BUSH
Additional thoughts on the worst American President yet, and why he shouldn't be one.

Rat's Nest:
Things to Gnaw

Cabdrivers' Guide
to Greater Phoenix

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